October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
9 years ago

Reid to CNN: Boehner’s ‘job is not as important as our country’

Washington (CNN) – In an interview with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused House Speaker John Boehner of being more worried about his job than the country amid a government shutdown.

The Nevada Democrat also talked for the first time Thursday about Boehner reneging on an agreement between the two over a “clean” spending bill, and admitted he directed his chief of staff to  leak embarrassing e-mails that they say indicate Boehner changed his position on Obamacare subsidies for Congress.

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Reid also followed up on his controversial comments from Wednesday, when he took issue with the idea that the Senate should vote to fund clinical trials for cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health during the shutdown.

In the interview, Reid criticized Boehner for bowing to a conservative faction of his caucus that insists on attaching anti-Obamacare provisions to a temporary spending bill needed to fund the government.

“His job is not as important as our country,” Reid said.

While a more moderate group of the GOP caucus is trying to generate support for a “clean” continuing resolution, Boehner has not agreed to bring their plan up for a vote.

“I say to my friend John Boehner–and I do like him, I’ve said that lots of times–John, if you want to really have history books account who you really are, do this,” he said, urging Boehner to take up the clean bill.

“He has to have some courage,” he added.

Clearly agitated at the memory, Reid said the two met in early September and reached a compromise about the end-of-the month deadline to pass a spending bill. Reid said Boehner agreed to pass a $988 billion spending package, $70 billion less than what the senate leader wanted.

“That was really hard,” Reid said, referring his decision to drop $70 billion. “My caucus really didn't like that. We took a real hit.”

Asked if Boehner at the time promised to deliver a clean continuing resolution, Reid said: “That's why we did it.  That's why we agreed to that lower number.  So that's one of the largest compromises since I've been in Congress.”

Republicans passed a series of bills on Wednesday with majority support that would fund national parks, the National Institutes of Health and District of Columbia operations while the government remains shut down.

But Reid has refused to take them up, saying the government should be funded all at once. The White House also issued a veto threat.

Reid, who's been known to use explosive terms to describe the tea party, defended his choice of words, especially when he calls them “anarchists.”

“Why in the world wouldn't I use the term anarchy? That's what they are, they're anarchists,” he said. “They don't believe in government at any level.  That's why we have members of Congress over there today and yesterday saying finally, we're able to close the government.”

He conceded that calling them “the weird caucus,” as he’s previously done, was “probably a little over the hill,” but said he won’t give up on referring to them as anarchists.

“There's no better description I can make,” he said. “They're not blowing up buildings and they're not killing people. But they're throwing much - monkey wrenches in the wheels of government.”

On Wednesday, Bash asked Reid at a press conference why he would refuse to pass a bill to fund the NIH’s clinical trials, which have stopped amid the shutdown.

He reiterated his stance against funding the government piece by piece.

"Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting at home. They have a few problems of their own,” he said. “To have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing means you're as irresponsible and reckless.”

Republicans quickly seized on his answer, using it to paint the Democrat as uncaring and insensitive.

While Reid admitted he was not articulate in his answer, he said the attacks that followed were “mean-spirited.”

“I understand babies who are sick. I've got a lot of children, lots of grandchildren. I really worry about kids, probably more than others because those little bodies can't take the assaults that we as older people can take,” he said.

Reid also commented on why his staff leaked a series of e-mails between his office and Boehner’s, which, according to Reid’s office, show Boehner worked privately to preserve health insurance subsidies for lawmakers and congressional employees before publicly moving to strip them as part of the standoff over government funding.

“He was behind this all the way,” Reid said. “I did a lot of the heavy lifting, but he was part of the deal. He was there. And then to have him come and try to say, ‘this is bad, Congress is getting something others aren't getting,’ it's not true. … I thought, how could you do that?”

Democrats argue the federal support is no different than what large companies give their employees.

“I told my staff, ‘You tell his staff, if they do this, I’m going to have to go public, because this is something that is just absolutely wrong,’” he said.

A spokesman for Boehner denied Tuesday the speaker was working with the Democrats to find a legislative fix for the subsidies, outside of repealing Obamacare in its entirety and keeping congressional employees on their existing health plans.

Instead, Boehner thought the matter should be handled by the Office of Personnel Management.

“The speaker’s position is clear: He voted against Obamacare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare.  If the Senate Democrats and the White House wanted to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix.  The speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal,” said spokesman Michael Steel. “This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.”

- CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Filed under: Government Shutdown • Harry Reid • John Boehner • Senate
soundoff (645 Responses)
  1. Chuk

    What's been clear for a long time is that Boehner has no spine. Therefore, the insane lunatic fringe is running the assylum. Good luck to the country (it will need it).

    October 4, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  2. miserynmossouri

    Time for Harry to return to Nevada, get out the Backgammon and the rocking chair and leave politics. The time has come for the "old hats" to leave (Reid, Pelosi, McCain) and let fresh new ideas prosper in Washington. I blame Reid and Pelosi for a lot of the turmoil in Washington. Both love to fan the flames of partisan bickering.
    Contrary to the medias belief, this shutdown is good for Americans. It shows how little we need 1/3 of the government jobs. We could easily save Americans money by streamlining the government. I prefer to keep my money, not give it to Washington.

    October 4, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  3. Gee are

    A Republican job is not the issue. DC is spending too much money and it must stop. We do not want a Dem (or Rep) to steal our SS to foolishly spend it on NSA!!! Get B. fired and you have only more more vote. What will that do?

    October 4, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  4. independant jim

    how many children in this country die each day because of inadequate health care the NIH is part of the government when the republicans shut down the gov they said tough luck to those kids find help somewhere else Now they try to paint Reid as against kids when they are against anyone that gets sick

    October 4, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  5. PAllen

    Here's what I have the biggest problem with : This portion of the interview says it all to me:

    Reid said Boehner agreed to pass a $988 billion spending package, $70 billion less than what the senate leader wanted.
    “That was really hard,” Reid said, referring his decision to drop $70 billion. “My caucus really didn't like that. We took a real hit.”
    You've got 2, I SAY AGAIN 2, elected officials deciding during a private meeting what the federal budget should be, and just like that saying, OK we'll (meaning the Democrats) drop $70 billion dollars, and the other to say sure I'LL get the bill passed. This is the problem with our system right now, where is the debate, where is the give and take, where is the electorate being heard in any of this. 2 people, in elected legislature of 535, +2 (POTUS & VPOTUS). This is beyond ridiculously infuriating.

    October 4, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. newsdreamer

    Terrorist don't think of others, it all about destroying them like Boehner and the Tea party is doing

    October 4, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. PSYmuffin

    pork stained Harry.......poster boy for term limits

    October 4, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  8. jnpa

    I completely agree with Reid. It is not beneath Boehner to do whatever it takes to appease the tea party in order to keep his job. He is a fool and always has been. "I got 98% of what I wanted" snicker, snicker....well, not this time Boehner!

    October 4, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  9. TONE

    Go Harry stick it to them.

    October 4, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  10. Therod

    “He has to have some courage,” he added.

    What in the world are you talking about Harry?? Boehner told his party he won't threaten the debt ceiling and will work a deal with democrats to make sure that doesn't happen, even if that means bucking his own party. Seems like he's being the reasonable one here. The Republicans were stupid to go this route however I understand why they did it. What I don't understand is the total intransigence of Senate Democrats. Lets face it. The obamacare roll out has been an utter disaster and folks are REALLY turned off by the cost of the premiums / deductibles of the program not to mention the HUGE data security issues and recent compromise of peoples Social Security Numbers. Until they get it together, i know I won't enroll anytime soon.

    October 4, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  11. artie

    Piece-meal funding of NIH is grandstanding at its finest by the GOP! Afterall it was the GOP that slashed $1.7B from NIH's budget.

    October 4, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  12. Gurgy

    These people that are commenting antagonizing Reid, because they have to are the ones Stupids. Yes, Job is Not that important–they are paid by Insyrance companies bribes, hospitals, Gun-dealers. Karma, karma, karma. Educate yourself.

    October 4, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  13. JGTheMan

    Obviously Harry Reid is convinced that he is doing God's work on earth since he authorizes himself to hand down proclamations about the value of other's, but oddly has no insight into his own value or the source of it. Men like Harry need to step away from the podium and give themselves a self checkup, maybe say a prayer and actually find God before it's too late.

    October 4, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  14. Tim

    I think all is working quite well, myself. Harry compromise? Only 'til he gets his foot in the door. The left never compromises, they keep on pushing and Reed is a dink if he thinks we don't know that. Their precious birth control to deplete the surplus population is at play here and he knows it. To bad he'll have to face the real Supreme Court someday, along with the rest of the dummies. And maybe they can explain the government leaks their too. Keep pressing on the international security issues too guys.....they are doing an end around on you.....diverting your attention away from the security issue......they're good at it. While your facing one way they are countering the other, and they do this all the time. KEY: Take the offensive and never turn back!

    October 4, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  15. Tutuvabene

    The nation is far more important than Reid, Obama, Boehner and the rest of their ilk.

    October 4, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  16. callmecrazy

    I see the right wing trolls are out in force. Ha ha, you guys aren't making any dent in the polls. Everyone knows the republicans are loosing that battle. But hey keep up the good work. The longer this shutdown continues, the more seats you will loose next election. I'm down with that.

    October 4, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  17. Rob

    Harry sand the rest of the democratic leadership better check their retirement accounts and get ready to enjoy them.. re-elections have a way of fixing these problems..of course a RECALL election would make that happen faster

    October 4, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  18. northerstar

    Reid is an embarrassment and should be removed from his position. He just barely got re-elected back home. Hopefully his days are numbered along with Boehner's.

    October 4, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  19. Dan

    Funny! I think Boehner is doing this for the nation so we are not saddled with Obamacare. It will bankrupt us

    October 4, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  20. Jason

    Wmsy – Boehner is second in line for the presidency? I guess the Vice-President no longer counts? How does it feel to make such a bone-headed mistake?

    October 4, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  21. charles bowen

    The Republican Party is made up of Morons Idiots and antisocial Tea raggers and this is the Cream of the Republican Crop of dimwhitted derilicks who should be put out to pasture .......I used to be a Republican untill the party backed the Braindead Bush.....Follow Boehner, the end of your party is at hand. we democrats will just watch the death of your Obstructionist Party and have a good laugh at your Disfunctional Dance......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    October 4, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  22. James Anderson

    Reid you need to resign because you have done enough to destroy this country.

    October 4, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  23. Brandon Donovan

    Reid, your life is not as important as our country. As a matter of fact, your life isn't worth two cents.

    October 4, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  24. Barry bin Inhalin

    'Our' country? Not sure where you're from Harry, but your actions do not support 'our' country.

    October 4, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  25. zivo24

    I don't blame Reid one bit for his initial response to Bash about children waiting for clinic trials.

    Why are sick children who are waiting for clinic trials more important than sick children who don't have, have been denied or will lose their health insurance coverage if the GOP is successful in repealing defunding ACA???

    To criticize him for what he said and not take Boehner to greater task for his stand against Obamacare is hypocrisy at it's worst.

    October 4, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
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