Thursday, December 30, 2021

REPORT: Harry Reid, Longtime Dem Senate Majority Leader, Has Died

FIILE: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debates on January 15, 2008. He passed away Tuesday at 82. (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC NewsWire)

Source: KSN

Published: Dec 28, 2021

By: Alexander Bolton

(The Hill) – Harry Reid, one of the Senate’s longest serving majority leaders and a Democrat who played a central role in enacting President Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishments, died Tuesday at 82. 

The death was announced by longtime political reporter Jon Ralston, who called Reid “probably the most important elected official in Nevada history.”

Reid served as majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017 as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington.

He was elected Senate Democratic Whip in 1998 and Senate Democratic leader in 2004, and became majority leader when Democrats took over the House and Senate at the height of public frustration with the Iraq war. 

Reid, whose service as majority leader was surpassed only by Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Alben Barkley (D-Ky.), was not afraid to engage in open partisan warfare on the Senate floor, making him one of the chamber’s most divisive leaders in history. 

He famously called George W. Bush, the sitting president, a “liar” and a “loser” and accused Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee for president in 2012, on the Senate floor of not paying his taxes. 

He later apologized for calling Bush a loser but stuck by calling him a liar and never apologized for painting Romney as a tax cheat, even though PolitiFact rated the claim “Pants on Fire.”

Reid’s response was classic Reid. Terse and to the point. 

“Romney didn’t win, did he?” he told CNN’s Dana Bash when asked whether he had any regrets. 

Reid’s dogged effort to unify all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the largest entitlement program passed since Medicare, ranks as the biggest legislative accomplishment of recent history. 

To win over former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a pivotal moderate, Reid agreed to have the federal government to pay Nebraska’s share of the cost for expanding Medicaid, a deal that critics called the Cornhusker Kickback, and was later dropped. 

Reid proclaimed it as a victory that “affirmed the ability to live a healthy life in our great country is a right and not merely a privilege for the select few” and dedicated it to his friend Ted Kennedy, who had recently died.  

His other signature victories were the passage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the depth of the Great Recession and, as the nation was beginning to recover, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which sought to rein in excesses that had nearly collapsed world financial markets. 

Reid’s aggressive political style often evoked allusions to his record as an amateur boxer.

His breakthrough in politics came in 1970 when his mentor and high-school boxing coach Mike O’Callaghan, who went on to become a successful politician and run for governor, asked him to serve as his running mate.  

Reid’s life was a modern-day Horatio Alger story.

He grew up in Searchlight, Nev., an isolated mining town, where he learned to swim at the indoor pool of the local bordello and lived in a shack made of railroad ties soaked in creosote to keep the termites out. 

When he left the Senate, his net worth was estimated in the millions of dollars.

He also left a political dynasty behind. His son Rory served as Clark County commissioner and ran for governor in 2010. 

Reid worked in the Capitol as a police officer to pay for his studies at George Washington University’s law school, served four years as a member of the House and 30 years in the Senate. 

He was elected the state’s lieutenant governor at age 31.

Reid was known in the Senate for hating to gab on the phone and often hung up on colleagues without saying goodbye, sometimes leaving them to talk at length to themselves. 

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He made up for it, however, by being a diligent student about what his colleagues needed and often delivered by putting in hours of legwork. 

“I was always willing to do things that others were not willing to do,” he told The New York Times in a 2018 interview. 

Democrats celebrated Reid’s career during his final month in office with star-studded farewell tribute in the Russell Building’s Kennedy Caucus Room, where former Vice President Joe Biden praised him as a “man of your word” and declared that no majority leader in his memory had “a tougher job at a tougher time.”

Many Republicans, however, were happy to see Reid go. 

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