LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — “He got things done.” That is how former President Barack Obama remembered his friend Nevada Sen. Harry Reid as he eulogized the former Senate majority leader who helped him achieve much of his presidential accomplishments.
“I could not have asked for a better, truer friend,” Obama said. “I sure did love you back.”
Reid, who was 82, lost his four-year battle with pancreatic cancer on Dec. 28, closing the final chapter on an incredible life journey that took him from his humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada, to becoming one of the country’s most powerful political positions.
“Harry was the first to admit he was not the most charismatic or politically correct speaker,” Obama said. “But Harry knew who he was, and he had the distinct advantage of not really carrying what people thought about him.”
The former president noted Reid’s rise from a small town an hour south of Las Vegas to the halls of Washington.
Reid, a Democrat, was Nevada’s longest-serving member of Congress. He was known to be a tough dealmaker during his more than four decades of public service.
“For Harry, the whole point of holding office — the whole point of wielding power — was to actually get things done on behalf of those he represented,” Obama said, noting it was Reid who encouraged him to run for president.
Obama said he could not have accomplished as president what he had set out to do without Reid’s help, including the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Affordable Care Act.
Reid also halted a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, brought the DREAM Act to a vote, and is credited with keeping some massive local construction projects alive during the Great Recession.
“Few people have done more for this state, this country, than this driven, brilliant, sometimes irascible, deeply good man from Searchlight, Nevada,” Obama said.
Obama’s speech included some lighter moments, including telling a story about a time when Reid and his wife, Landra, were having dinner with him. Suddenly, Reid gave the president a kiss on the cheek.
“Here’s another thing that set Harry apart: he was always unfailingly himself,” Obama said. “That may not sound exceptional, but in Washington, it is an exceedingly rare quality.”
Reid and Obama would talk on the phone “from time to time” after both men left office in 2017, the former president said.
“Together, we made a darn good team,” Obama said. “He told me about his illness and the treatments he was going through and what was keeping him busy. And at some time during those calls, he would mention someone he ran into who had thanked them for getting him healthcare or had saved him his job.”
Reid will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol next week.