LAS VEGAS (KLAS)— Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, an American politician who represented Nevada in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, has died. Reid was known as a champion who fought for the state that he loved.
Reid is described as one of the most powerful politicians in state history.
Reid, who was 82, died following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in 2018.
“I am heartbroken to announce the passing of my husband, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He died peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by our family, following a courageous, four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Harry was 82 years old. We were married for 62 years.
“We are so proud of the legacy he leaves behind both on the national stage and his beloved Nevada. Harry was deeply touched to see his decades of service to Nevada honored in recent weeks with the re-naming of Las Vegas’ airport in his honor.
“Harry was a devout family man and deeply loyal friend.
“We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from so many over these past few years. We are especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that cared for him. Please know that meant the world to him.
“Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.”Landra Reid
Reid died peacefully Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by his family.
Reid served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, including eight years as Democratic majority leader, and was the longest-serving senator in Nevada history when he retired in 2017.
Harry Reid was born on Dec. 2, 1939. He was raised in Searchlight, Nevada, south of Las Vegas.
Reid served as majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017 as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington.
He was elected Senate Democratic Whip in 1998 and Senate Democratic leader in 2004, and became majority leader when Democrats took over the House and Senate at the height of public frustration with the Iraq war.
Reid, whose service as majority leader was surpassed only by Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Alben Barkley (D-Ky.), was not afraid to engage in open partisan warfare on the Senate floor, making him one of the chamber’s most divisive leaders in history.
He famously called George W. Bush, the sitting president, a “liar” and a “loser” and accused Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee for president in 2012, on the Senate floor of not paying his taxes.
Reid was one of only three senators to have served at least eight years as majority leader.
Reid’s dogged effort to unify all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the largest entitlement program passed since Medicare, ranks as the biggest legislative accomplishment of recent history.
To win over former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a pivotal moderate, Reid agreed to have the federal government to pay Nebraska’s share of the cost for expanding Medicaid, a deal that critics called the Cornhusker Kickback, and was later dropped.
Reid proclaimed it as victory that “affirmed the ability to live a health life in our great country is a right and not merely a privilege for the select few” and dedicated it to his friend Ted Kennedy, who had recently died.
His other signature victories were the passage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the depth of the Great Recession and, as the nation was beginning to recover, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which sought to rein in excesses that had nearly collapsed world financial markets.
Reid’s aggressive political style often evoked allusions to his record as an amateur boxer.
His breakthrough in politics came in 1970 when his mentor and high-school boxing coach Mike O’Callaghan, who went on to become a successful politician and run for governor, asked him to serve as his running mate.
Democrats celebrated Reid’s career during his final month in office with star-studded farewell tribute in the Russell Building’s Kennedy Caucus Room, where former Vice President Joe Biden praised him as a “man of your word” and declared that no majority leader in his memory had “a tougher job at a tougher time.”
Many Republicans, however, were happy to see Reid go.
Then Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell angrily predicted in 2013 that Reid would be remembered as “the worst leader of the Senate ever” if he went ahead with a controversial rules change known as the nuclear option to make it easier to confirm Obama’s appellate court picks.
Undeterred, Reid went ahead with the unilateral procedural move in November of that year, lowering the bar for confirming executive branch and judicial nominees below the level of Supreme Court.
Breaking the Republican filibuster allowed Obama to fill three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the second most powerful court in the nation, and swing its majority to the left.
He made opposition to the nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain a signature issue and funneled back plenty of federal pork to Nevada as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee.
Republicans thought they had an excellent chance to knock off Reid, who had a dismal 38 percent approval rating — compared to a 54 percent disapproval rating — at the start of the 2010 cycle. But Reid was helped by the changing demographics of the state, which Obama won in the 2008 election.
Reid employed the same strategy of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer with Brian Sandoval, the Republican who later served as Nevada’s governor.
He recommended Sandoval to a federal judgeship in 2004, which kept the rising Republican star out of politics for four years until he quit the bench to re-enter the fray and defeat Reid’s son Rory in the 2010 governor’s race.
In 2018, Reid underwent cancer surgery.
In 2020, Reid’s pancreatic cancer was in remission after he had an experimental treatment aimed at helping his immune system fight the disease. Reid underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas in May, an operation that left him frail and needing a walker.
On Dec. 14, Las Vegas airport was renamed Harry Reid International Airport in his honor.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.