Obama Honors Former Senate Leader As The Man “Who Made It Happen”
Former President Barack Obama on Saturday commemorated the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a man “who got things done”, as Democratic leaders gathered from across the country to recall Reid – often laughing – as a man whose impatience for jokes was part of a campaign to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
Attendance at Reid’s memorial service in Las Vegas was a testament to Reid’s impact on some of the most important laws of the 21st century, despite coming from a childhood of poverty and deprivation in Nevada. President Joe Biden escorted Reid’s widow Landra Reid to her seat at the start of services before an honor guard carried a flag-covered coffin to the well of a hushed auditorium .
Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who described Reid to mourners on Saturday as a “truly honest and original character,” speaking at an invitation-only memorial for the longtime Senate leader.
Former President Barack Obama, who credits Reid with his rise to the White House, delivered the eulogy.
Obama said that when Reid helped pass the Affordable Care Act, “he didn’t do it to restore his legacy,” recalling that Reid’s family was so poor that Reid himself pulled a tooth out of his father.
“He did it for people at home and families like his who needed someone to take care of them when no one else did. Harry got things done, “Obama said.
Reid died on December 28 at his home in Henderson, Nevada, aged 82 of complications from pancreatic cancer
Biden served for two decades with Reid in the Senate and worked with him for eight years when Biden was vice president. Biden believed Reid was “one of the greatest leaders in Senate history,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday.
Schumer in his remarks referred to the January 6 insurgency in Washington and the bravery shown by the Capitol Police officers, recalling Reid’s time as a Capitol Police officer while studying at the George Washington University.
“In many ways Harry was a keeper and steward of the Senate, literally and figuratively,” Schumer said.
Reid’s son Leif recalled his father’s well-known habit of abruptly hanging up on phone conversations without saying goodbye, sometimes leaving the other person – whether powerful politicians or family members close – chat for several minutes before realizing he was no longer there.
Leif Reid said it was “part of the story” of his father’s life and tried to explain that the move was more about saving Reid’s time for the family.
“When he hung up on you, maybe so quickly, it wasn’t so much that he was abrupt as that he was devoted to my mom,” said Leif Reid.
“I’ve probably been hooked the most by Harry Reid, two or three times a day, for 12 years,” Pelosi told mourners.
“Sometimes I even called him back and said to Harry, ‘I was singing your praises,’ Pelosi said. To which Reid replied, ‘I don’t want to hear it,’ she said. said, before hearing the phone switch off.
Obama, in a letter to Reid before his death, recalled their close relationship, their different origins, and Reid’s rise from a former depleted gold mining town in the Mojave Desert to leadership of Congress.
“Not bad for a poor skinny Searchlight boy,” Obama wrote. “I would not have been President without your encouragement and support, and I would not have achieved most of what I have done without your skills and determination.”
Reid served 34 years in Washington and led the Senate through a crippling recession and the Republican takeover of the House after the 2010 election.
He beefed up Obama’s health care law through the Senate; blocked plans for a national nuclear waste repository in the Nevada desert; author of a 1986 bill which created the Grand Bassin National Park; and was credited with helping casino company MGM Mirage gain financial backing to complete a multibillion-dollar project on the Strip during the Great Recession.
Harry Mason Reid hitchhiked 40 miles to high school and was an amateur boxer before being elected to the Nevada State Assembly at the age of 28. He was a graduate of Utah State University and worked nights as a United States Capitol Police Officer while dating George. Washington University Law School in Washington.
In 1970, at the age of 30, he was elected lieutenant governor of the state along with Democratic Governor Mike O’Callaghan. Reid was elected to the House in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986.
He built a political machine in Nevada that for years helped Democrats win key elections. When he retired in 2016 after an exercise accident at home left him blind in one eye, he chose former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto to replace him.
Cortez Masto became Nevada’s first woman and the first Latina ever to be elected to the United States Senate.
“Above all, you’ve been a good friend,” Obama told Reid in his letter. “As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other – a few strangers who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little one. guys.”
Singer-songwriter and environmentalist Carole King and Brandon Flowers, frontman of Las Vegas-based rock band The Killers, performed at the memorial.
Flowers, a longtime friend, shares the faith of Reids’ Latter-day Saints and has been headlining events such as a Lake Tahoe summit that Harry Reid founded in 1997 to draw attention to the ecology of the lake; and the National Clean Energy Summit which Reid helped launch in 2008 in Las Vegas.
Those flying to Las Vegas will arrive at the newly renamed Harry Reid International Airport. It was previously named after Pat McCarran, a former Democratic US senator from Nevada who once owned the airfield and whose legacy is clouded by racism and anti-Semitism.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.