Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sought to clarify comments he made in a testy exchange with a reporter Wednesday, after conservatives pounced on what they portrayed as a serious government shutdown gaffe.
Republicans are in such desperate straits that they have literally resorted to accusing me of not caring about kids with cancer. Shameful.— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) October 2, 2013
Earlier Wednesday, Reid was engaged in a terse back and forth with CNN reporter Dana Bash, who asked him why the Senate wouldn’t consider passing a bill to fund the National Institutes of Health, after reports that some young cancer patients were being kept out of clinical trials because of the shutdown.
“Why would we want to do that?” Reid shot back. “I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless.”
In the exchange with Bash, Reid had been trying to argue that Democrats would not bow to Republican attempts to pick and choose what parts of the government to fund because Republicans were looking to fund everything except for ObamaCare.
Democrats have so far rejected the GOP’s piecemeal approach, and Republicans have countered by voting on bills, such as funding for veterans, to put the Democrats in the difficult position of voting against something that has strong public support.
Conservatives jumped on Reid’s comment, with the Drudge Report leading with the headline: “Why would we want to help one kid with cancer?”
Later, in an interview with The Bill Press Show, Reid elaborated on the exchange.
“The whole answer is this — why would we want to have the House of Representatives, John Boehner, cherry pick what stays open and what should be closed?” he said. “Listen, I gave a speech on the floor talking about the babies, 30 babies, little kids who are not going to have clinical trials. Of course I care about that. I have 16 of my own grandchildren and five of my own children.”
Reid said that there are other agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that are just as important to fund and that he’s working to get everything back online.
“What I told Dana Bash, who is a fine reporter, is that we care about all of these things,” he continued. “We care about our state parks; we care about our veterans, but we can’t fall into the trap … of Cruz-led Republicans. That is this … we’ll cherry pick … and finally at the end, everything will be open except for ObamaCare.”