Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was asked during a press conference Wednesday why he opposes a House bill that would fund the National Institutes of Health during the partial government shutdown if it could “help one child who has cancer.”
And he was apparently unprepared for the question from CNN’s Dana Bash.
“You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is presumably going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH,” Bash began. “Given what you’ve said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren’t you playing the same political games that Republicans are?”
Her question is in reference to several House appropriations bills that would keep certain institutions funded during the partial government shutdown. Senate Democrats say they will not negotiate with the House on anything until it passes a “clean” continuing resolution, ending the shutdown completely and leaving Obamacare untouched.
“What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible,” said Sen. Reid. “[T]hey have no right to pick and choose.”
Bash persisted: “But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?”
“Why pit one against the other?” Sen. Chuck Schumer said off microphone, avoiding the the main question.
“Why would we want to do that?” Reid said with a confused look on his face after stuttering. “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,” he added.
“I’m just asking a question,” Bash said.
And in response to what “right” does the House have to pick and choose which parts of government are funded, David Freddoso notes the following passage from the Constitution, Article I, Section 9: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…”
“Congress holds the power of the purse,” Freddoso notes. “As one of Congress’s two chambers, the House of Representatives has some power to decide which functions of government are funded.”
Here’s the full exchange between Bash and Sen. Reid:
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