Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dies at 82

Harry Reid, the bellicose son of a Nevada hard rock miner who rose out of poverty to become the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and earned a reputation as a fierce partisan fighter during an era of political stalemate in Washington. , died Tuesday. He was 82 years old.

Reid, a former amateur boxer who represented Nevada in the United States Congress as a Democrat for more than three decades, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife of 62 years, Landra, said in a statement.

“We are very proud of the legacy he leaves both on the national stage and in his beloved Nevada,” said Landra Reid.

As Majority Leader, Reid served as President Barack Obama’s point man in the Senate and helped secure congressional passage of Obama’s signature healthcare bill, known as Obamacare, in 2010 in the face of furious opposition. republican.

Obama posted a recent letter to Reid on social media Tuesday:

“You were a great leader in the Senate, and at first you were more generous to me than I had a right to expect,” Obama said in the letter. “I would not have been president had it not been for his encouragement and support, and I would not have accomplished most of what I did without his skill and determination.”

Reid retired in 2016, a year after sustaining broken ribs and facial bones, and injuring his eye in an accident while exercising at home.

He had risen to the position of Majority Leader in 2007 after Democrats won control of the Senate. Despite being a political moderate who differentiated himself from others in his party on abortion, the environment, and gun control, Reid regularly clashed with Republicans and had bad relationships with opposition party congressional leaders.

“I always preferred to dance than fight, but I know how to fight,” Reid said in 2004, referring to his boxing career.

In 2012, Mitch McConnell, then the top Senate Republican, called Reid “the worst leader in the Senate of all time,” while Reid accused McConnell of a lack of faith on an important issue.

During Reid’s time as Majority Leader, the main legislation languished because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t make concessions. His relationship with McConnell was so strained that the Republican leader rejected Reid during crucial talks on US tax policy and dealt directly with Vice President Joe Biden.

In 2013, fed up with Republican procedural moves blocking Obama’s executive and judiciary nominees, Reid pushed through the Senate for a landmark change to the Senate’s obstructionist rules, preventing a minority party from blocking presidential appointments except those of the Senate. Supreme Court.

“There has been an incredible and unprecedented obstruction,” Reid told his fellow senators, referring to Republicans. “The Senate is a living being and to survive it must change as it has throughout the history of this great country.”

Republicans said the move was a simple takeover.

Reid was first elected to the House in 1982 and sent to the Senate by Nevada voters in 1986. He demonstrated remarkable resilience, fighting the vigorous challenges of reelection.

Humble origins

Touch wasn’t Reid’s strong suit. He called Republican President George W. Bush a “loser” and a “liar” and called Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan “one of the biggest political attacks we have in Washington.”

He apologized in 2010 for referring to Obama, America’s first black president, in private conversations two years earlier as “light-skinned” without “black dialect,” saying, “I deeply regret that I used such a poor choice of words.”

Reid became a Mormon when he was young and eventually became the highest-ranking member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in public office in the United States.

During the 2012 presidential race, Reid became a Democratic attack dog, accusing Obama’s Republican challenger and fellow Mormon Mitt Romney of failing to pay federal income taxes for 10 years. Romney insisted that he paid “all the taxes required by law.”

Harry Mason Reid was born to a poor family in the small desert mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, on December 2, 1939. His father was a hard rock miner with an eighth grade education who committed suicide in 1972.

Her mother, who never finished high school, took it upon herself to do the laundry for the brothels to help her financially. The family lived in a small cabin with no indoor plumbing, hot water, or a telephone.

“I learned in the United States that no matter your parents’ education, what their religion is or not, their social status, we had none, the color of their skin or their economic status. I am an example of this. If I succeeded, anyone it can, “Reid said during a speech in 2007.

Reid attended a two-room school through eighth grade, then hitchhiked 40 miles (64 km) each week to high school, and stayed with local families before hitchhiking home each weekend.

He graduated from Utah State University in 1961 and later worked nights as a United States Capitol police officer while attending law school at George Washington University in Washington. He obtained his law degree in 1964 and returned to Nevada.

Reid was a former trial attorney and held various positions in the state of Nevada. He headed the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, a position in which he fought the influence of organized crime in the state’s casinos and endured death threats from mobsters.

In the Senate, Reid won passage of an ethics measure prohibiting senators from accepting gifts, meals or trips from lobbyists in 2007.

He voted in favor of the Iraq war resolutions in 1991 and 2002. While Reid remained a supporter of the first Iraq war, he backtracked and opposed the second, accusing the Bush administration of misleading. the nation.

Reid unleashed a political storm when he declared in 2007 that the Iraq war, launched by Bush in 2003, was “lost.” Reid rejected Republican demands for an apology, but tried to clarify by saying that the war was lost unless Bush changed course.

Reid and his wife, Landra, had five children.


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