Harry Reid, Former Senate Majority Leader Who Helped Pass Obamacare, Dies At 82
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid died Tuesday at age 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
A direct and dogged figure who took a tough childhood and turned it into a national Democratic leadership role later in life, Reid was the longest-serving senator in Nevada’s history.
His wife of 62 years, Landra Reid, released a statement calling her husband a “devout family man and deeply loyal friend.”
“I’m sure there are more people capable than I, better looking than me, better educated than me, smarter than me. But I’ve got the job. And I try to do the best I can with the job,” Reid said in December 2016, just weeks before retiring from the Senate.
Reid, a former boxer, served five terms in the U.S. Senate. He would ultimately become a pivotal figure on Capitol Hill in two administrations—as an opposition to President George W. Bush and then as the Senate Majority Leader working to help President Barack Obama; under his watch, the Affordable Care Act became law.
“He’s got that curmudgeonly charm that is hard to replace,” Obama said in March 2015. President Joe Biden Tuesday called him “a great American” and “dear friend.”
“If Harry said he would do something, he did it. If he gave you his word, you could bank on it. That’s how he got things done for the good of the country for decades,” Biden said.
His father was a miner and his mother a laundress, and Reid later wrote they had “zero” religion at home in Nevada. To attend high school, he had to travel 45 miles. During high school he was elected student body president, took up boxing, and met Landra Gould, whom he would marry in 1959.
He went to college and then law school full-time in Washington, D.C., while also working full-time with the Capitol Police.
“I would go to law school at GWU full-time and work full-time in uniform at the Capitol on the 3-to-11 shift,” he wrote in his book.
After law school, Reid returned to Nevada and was elected to the state Assembly at age 28; he captured a House seat in 1982; and, at the end of his second House term, he won a Senate seat. Reid became part of the Democratic leadership in 1995, as co-chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, then moved up to become his party’s whip in 1999.
“By the turn of the millennium, Reid’s organization was formidable,” Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston wrote in 2013. “He brought in talented Democratic operatives from around the country, as he grew more partisan, too, leaving behind any pretense that he was ‘independent like Nevada.’ As he moved up in the Democratic hierarchy, Reid had to fly the partisan flag more often.”
Reid remained a critic of President Donald Trump and those in Congress.
“People are under the false impression that Trump created the Republican Congress,” Reid said in 2017. “Wrong. They created him, they created him.”
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