Former US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has died aged 82

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Harry Reid, the pugnacious son of a Nevada hard-rock miner who rose out of poverty to become the majority leader in the United States Senate and earned a reputation as a fierce partisan fighter in an era of political stalemate in Washington, died Tuesday. He was 82 years old.

Reid, a former amateur boxer who represented Nevada in the United States Congress as a Democrat for more than three decades, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife, 62, Landra, said in a statement.

“We are so proud of the legacy he leaves on the national stage and of his beloved Nevada,” said Landra Reid.

As the majority leader, Reid served as President Barack Obama’s spokesperson in the Senate and helped get Congress to pass Obama’s health care bill, known as the Obamacare, in 2010 in the face of furious Republican opposition.

Obama posted on social media a recent letter he wrote to Reid on Tuesday:

“You were a great leader in the Senate, and at first you were more generous to me than I was entitled to expect,” Obama said in the letter. “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 retired in 2016, a year after sustaining broken ribs and facial bones, and injuring an eye in an accident while exercising at home.

He came to the post of majority leader in 2007 after Democrats took control of the Senate. Despite being a moderate politician who differed from other members of his party on abortion, the environment, and gun control, Reid regularly clashed with Republicans and had a poor relationship with the party’s congressional leadership. opposition.

“I always prefer to dance than fight, but I know how to fight,” Reid said in 2004, referring to his boxing career.

In 2012, Mitch McConnell, then the top Republican in the Senate, called Reid “the worst Senate leader ever,” while Reid accused McConnell of abuse of faith on an important issue.

In Reid’s time as majority leader, major legislation languished because Democrats and Republicans could not compromise. His relationship with McConnell was so strained that the Republican leader avoided Reid in crucial discussions of US fiscal policy and dealt directly with Vice President Joe Biden.

In 2013, tired of Republican procedural measures blocking Obama’s judicial and executive candidates, Reid pushed through the Senate a historic change to Senate rules on filibustering, preventing a minority party from blocking presidential appointments, in the Senate. except those at the Supreme Court.

“There has been an incredible and unprecedented obstruction,” Reid told fellow Senators, referring to Republicans. “The Senate is a living being and to survive it must change as it has throughout the history of this great country.

Republicans said the move was a naked takeover.

Reid was first elected to the House in 1982 and was sent to the Senate by Nevada voters in 1986. He has shown remarkable resilience, battling fiery re-election challenges.

Modest origins

Tact was not Reid’s strong suit. He called Republican President George W. Bush a “loser” and a “liar” and said Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan was “one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.”

He apologized in 2010 for calling Obama, the first black president of the United States, in private conversations two years earlier, “fair-skinned” without “no black dialect,” saying: “I deeply regret having used such a poor choice of words ”.

Reid became a Mormon in his youth and eventually became the most senior member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States public service.

During the 2012 presidential race, Reid became a Democratic attack dog, accusing Obama’s Republican challenger and fellow Mormon Mitt Romney of paying no federal income tax for 10 years. Romney insisted he paid “all taxes required by law.”

Harry Mason Reid was born into a poor family in the small desert mining town of Searchlight, Nevada on December 2, 1939. His father was a hard rock miner with an eighth grade education who committed suicide in 1972.

Her mother, who never finished high school, did laundry in brothels to help financially. The family lived in a small cabin with no indoor plumbing, hot water or telephone.

“I learned in America, it doesn’t matter how educated your parents are, what their religion is or not, their social status – we didn’t have one – their skin color or their economic status. I am one. If I got it, anyone can do it, ”Reid said in a speech in 2007.

Reid attended a two-room school until grade eight, then hitchhiked 40 miles each week to high school, boarding with local families before hitchhiking home each weekend. end.

He graduated from Utah State University in 1961 and then worked as a night shift cop on the United States Capitol while attending law school at George Washington University in Washington. He received his law degree in 1964 and returned to Nevada.

Reid was a litigator and held various offices in the state of Nevada. He was head of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, a position in which he fought the influence of organized crime in state casinos and suffered death threats from thugs.

In the Senate, Reid secured the passage of an ethics measure prohibiting senators from accepting gifts, meals or travel from lobbyists in 2007.

He voted for the Iraq War Resolutions in 1991 and 2002. While Reid remained a supporter of the First Iraq War, he overturned and opposed the second, accusing the Bush administration of ‘have misled the nation.

Reid sparked a political storm when he declared in 2007 that the war in Iraq, launched by Bush in 2003, was “lost.” Reid rejected the Republicans’ requests for an apology but sought to clarify by saying the war was lost unless Bush changed course.

Reid and his wife, Landra, had five children.

(REUTERS)

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