Friday, October 18, 2013

Harry Reid On Vitter And His Obamacare Amendment: 'He Just Is Not Playing With A Full Deck'

As the showdown over raising the nation's debt limit and funding the government entered its final week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could sense "desperation" seeping into the Republican Party.

"They kept trying to legislate from hour to hour," Reid recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post on Thursday. "It wasn't even day to day."

With Democratic senators united behind him, Reid dispatched the patchwork legislative offers being tossed his way, setting the stage for a complete GOP capitulation. But Wednesday night's resolution didn't come without exasperating moments. In particular, Reid said he was incensed that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) targeted health care subsidies given to congressional staffers who are required to buy insurance on the newly created Obamacare exchanges.

Weeks before the government shutdown, Boehner's office had privately worked with Reid's staff and the Obama administration to maintain the employer health care contribution. But as Boehner's negotiating position worsened, he publicly demanded that the contribution be ended.

"All of us who worked with him on this [were saying], 'John, what is the matter with you?'’' Reid said. “Okay. Go after members of Congress. But even doing that. Now, I can handle if I have to buy insurance without employer contribution. But some of my senators can’t. Forget about that. Forget about senators. They can do okay. But staff -- we have staff people of [Sen.] Susan Collins. She has people who work in Maine and make $25,000 a year. One of the reasons you can get somebody like that is that you give them health care. I don't mean to ramble on here, but I just can't imagine the thought process of John Boehner. ... How in good conscience could you do something like that?"

The irritation was strong enough that Reid's staff leaked emails to Politico showing that Boehner's aides had worked to keep the contribution intact. Republicans accused Reid's aides of breaching protocol and souring negotiations. Almost until the drama's very end, GOP leaders continued to target the Obamacare employer contribution in legislative offers. POST

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