Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is blaming Republicans for the National Institutes of Health turning away cancer patients. But when asked why the Senate wouldn't try to help "one child who has cancer" by approving a mini-spending bill, he shot back: "Why would we want to do that?"
The tense exchange occurred Wednesday, as Senate Democrats tried to lambaste Republicans ahead of a vote where the House ultimately approved funding the NIH and other agencies -- a bid to ease the pain amid the budget stand-off.
Reid has opposed the measures, saying that if Republicans want to end the government suspension they'll have to simply approve a "clean" budget bill -- devoid of any provision that would hurt ObamaCare.
But Reid was challenged at a Democratic press conference by CNN's Dana Bash about why the Senate wouldn't consider the NIH bill.
"If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?" she asked.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quietly asked, "Why pit one against the other?"
And Reid immediately chimed in: "Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own."
Reid's response was widely noticed by Republicans. "How out-of-touch and heartless can Senate Democrats be?" an email from the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked.
But Reid fired back, suggesting he's being taken out of context.
"Republicans are in such desperate straits that they have literally resorted to accusing me of not caring about kids with cancer. Shameful," his office tweeted.
Reid argues that the Republicans are trying to "pick and choose" what parts of government to keep open, and that they should be dropping their resistance to ObamaCare and voting to keep all of government open.
"You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is ObamaCare. They are obsessed. I don't know what other word I can use," Reid said.
Republicans say it's Democrats' refusal to negotiate the health law that has landed the country in this position.
"The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under ObamaCare," Mike Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. "Today, the House will continue to pass bills that reflect the American people's priorities."