Former Senate leader Harry Reid died, dubbed “Searchlight,” died at the age of 82.
The Nevada Democrat died Tuesday afternoon following a four-year fight with pancreatic cancer, according to his wife. He was a one-time amateur boxer who took a pugilist attitude to politics. He was 82 years old.
“We are very proud of the legacy he leaves behind on the national stage as well as [in] his home Nevada,” Landra Reid said in a statement. They’d been together for 62 years.
President Biden referred to Reid as one of the “all-time great” Senate majority leaders. “And it wasn’t about power for the sake of power for Harry. It was about having the authority to do what was right for the people “Biden said.
In a statement, the Senate’s current leader, New York’s Chuck Schumer, said of Reid:
“He was tough as nails, yet loving and sympathetic, and he always went out of his way silently to assist individuals in need. He was a fighter from low beginnings, yet he never forgot his roots and utilised his boxing instincts to bravely combat those who harmed the poor and middle class.”
“He’s gone,” Schumer said of Reid, “but he’ll walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every single day.”
Reid chose not to seek for reelection in 2016 due to a number of health difficulties in recent years. He was a member of Congress for 34 years, first in the House and then for three decades in the Senate, where he grew to become one of the chamber’s longest-serving party leaders.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted a message he addressed to Reid on Tuesday night: “You were an excellent Senate leader, and you were much more gracious to me than I had any right to expect. I would not have become president without your encouragement and support, and I would not have accomplished much of what I did without your talent and dedication. Most importantly, you’ve been a great friend.”
Discovering his ancestors
Reid’s embarrassment over his hardscrabble background became the core storey of his political career when he was born into poverty in the small Nevada town of Searchlight, where the two businesses were mining and prostitution.
“I felt embarrassed and ashamed of Searchlight. I didn’t want to speak about Searchlight while I was in college, high school, or law school “Reid remembered this in his farewell speech to the Senate in 2016.
One night, he went to a lecture by Roots author Alex Haley at the University of Nevada in Reno, and it transformed his life.
He remembered, “‘Be proud of who you are,’ urged [Haley]. You can’t get away from who you are.’ That night, I walked out of that event a changed person, a new man. I was a Searchlight employee from that day on. When I graduated from law school, I acquired a few pieces of property. As a result, I had connections there. Because my parents resided there, I assumed the identity of Harry Reid from Searchlight.”
In a statement commemorating Reid’s passing, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell referred to Reid’s origins.
McConnell remarked, “The runway that carried Harry to the upper chamber was nothing short of miraculous.” “His life storey started in a place without running water. It took him from amateur boxing to a term with the United States Capitol Police to finally being one of the most senior officials who were protected by that force. You couldn’t dream up a more American narrative, and it required Harry’s famed toughness, bluntness, and perseverance to make it happen.”
Reid’s success in politics was never credited to his social skills, since he was soft-spoken and had an exceptionally strong propensity for saying the wrong thing. He despised the Washington social scene so much that he boasted about how few meals he attended.
“I had around 135 or 136 of them [invitations] throughout my 34 years in Congress,” he remembered. “I’ve been to one of them. That was plenty for me.”
Reid was infamous for abruptly terminating phone conversations by just hanging up without saying goodbye. There was no one who was immune to it.
“I’ve got to say, every time I hear a dial tone in the future, I’ll think of Harry,” Biden once said.
A senator who has matured
Reid came into Congress as a completely different senator than he left it. He was a moderate Democrat who pushed for gun rights and against abortion, citing his Mormon beliefs. He was a Western-style Democrat in his early career, cultivating cross-aisle contacts at a period when the Senate prided itself on its clubby culture.
Reid’s ascension up the political ranks coincided with a surge in the nation’s contentious politics, and he became a prominent protagonist in the tale of Washington division. When then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was defeated for reelection in the 2004 midterm elections, he took over as minority leader. It was a stunning upset against a party leader that surprised Democrats and strained Senate relations.
Reid, a superb Senate strategist with a no-holds-barred approach to politics, concentrated authority in the leader’s office and focused his efforts on obstructing President George W. Bush’s agenda whenever possible. In an intensification of the long-running judicial battles, Democrats rejected Bush’s judicial appointments. He also sought to disrupt Bush’s attempt to partly privatise the Social Security system.
Obama’s historic win in 2008 ushered in a new era in which Democrats first possessed supermajorities in Congress and exploited them to implement landmark legislation, including the landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act. Reid subsequently referred to it as “the most significant thing we’ve ever done for the nation and the planet.”
It came at a political cost. In the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats lost control of the House and seats in the Senate, ushering in the Tea Party era in Washington, in which conservative Republicans attempted to derail Obama at every step. Reid shifted to the left while the Republican Party shifted to the right. He backed homosexual marriage and gun control legislation, reversing his prior socially moderate beliefs. When Republicans stepped up their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, he became an outspoken supporter of abortion rights and access.
Taking the nuclear route
Senate Republicans resisted in turn, delaying numerous of Obama’s presidential selections and further polarising the body. In 2013, Reid elected to use the “nuclear option” to end the nominations impasse. He pushed through a rule change that reduced the approval requirement for presidential nominees, excluding the Supreme Court, from 60 to 51 votes.
“The Senate is a living organism, and in order to survive, it must adapt as it has throughout the history of our great nation,” Reid claimed in support of his decision.
Republicans reacted angrily, warning of unexpected repercussions.
“I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: You’ll regret it, and sooner than you think,” McConnell, R-Ky., said.
McConnell was correct. Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, and the filibuster rule was further reduced in 2017 to apply to Supreme Court nominations in order to overcome Democratic opposition to Neil Gorsuch. They just needed the Reid precedent.
Although several Senate Democrats would eventually come to regret their votes in support of the nuclear option in 2013, Reid did not.
“I doubt any of us expected Donald J. Trump to be the first president to be elected under the new rules. However, what was fair for President Obama is also fair for President Trump “Reid expressed his views in a New York Times editorial at the conclusion of his Senate tenure.
In a late-2018 interview with the New York Times, he justified the action once again.
“We couldn’t get over 100 judges authorised, so I had no option. Either Obama’s administration would be a farce, or it would come to fruition “Reid said.
Reid was never bothered about public opinion. Landra was the only person he ever appeared to be concerned about. Reid was publicly loyal to her despite the fact that they were high school sweethearts who married at the age of 19.
“She has been the being of my existence, in both my personal and public lives,” he once stated. “My first love is her. It’s never going to end.”
Reid was contemplating retirement as his reelection bid in 2016 neared, but a January 2015 injury at home clinched the deal. Reid was exercising when he fell, causing various body traumas that left him physically crippled and blind in one eye. Reid said that the tragedy was not the primary reason, although he did want to “go out at the top of my game.”
He promptly set in place a succession plan that made it apparent that his deputy, Schumer, would take over as leader. Democrats solidly elected Schumer, exactly as Reid had predicted.