Harry Reid: From Capitol Cop to Powerhouse Senate Leader

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On Washington

Mr. Reid, who volition prevarication successful authorities connected Wednesday successful the Rotunda, charted a unsocial way to powerfulness and knew however to workout it.

As Senate bulk  leader, Harry Reid oversaw a notably productive play  of legislating, including transition  of the Affordable Care Act. That output stands successful  opposition  to today’s gridlock.
Credit...Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Carl Hulse

Jan. 11, 2022, 4:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Harry Reid lived for the Senate floor. He besides lived connected it.

When Mr. Reid, a legislator from Nevada, became the Democratic whip successful 1999, helium eagerly assumed astir of the day-to-day level responsibilities for Tom Daschle, past the bulk leader, fundamentally taking up imperishable residence successful the enclosure and becoming arsenic overmuch of a fixture arsenic the desks.

“He virtually wore the carpet down betwixt the level and my office,” said Mr. Daschle, noting that Mr. Reid would traipse implicit a twelve oregon much times a time to consult, capable that Mr. Reid’s wife, Landra, would hold for her hubby successful Mr. Daschle’s lobby, knowing she could yet drawback him there.

On Wednesday, Mr. Reid volition prevarication successful authorities successful the Capitol Rotunda, conscionable down the hallway from the enclosure wherever helium ensconced himself and past presided arsenic bulk person from 2007 to 2015. His tenure included a three-year play from 2008 to 2011 erstwhile the Senate produced an bonzer burst of legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, a flurry of policymaking that seems astir unthinkable contiguous with the enclosure mired successful dysfunction and stalemate.

Lying successful authorities successful the Rotunda is simply a uncommon honor, 1 that helium would person ne'er imagined for himself erstwhile helium happily took connected the level drudgery arsenic Democratic whip, the second-ranking presumption successful his caucus. That enactment was ideally suited to an wrong subordinate similar Mr. Reid, a instrumentality pupil who moonlighted arsenic a Capitol Police serviceman and became a starring legislature figure.

But his prime to give himself to interior machinations turned retired to beryllium a shrewd determination successful an improbable governmental vocation filled with them. His devotion to the minutiae of the Senate schooled him successful the arcane rules of the institution, and it besides gave him a accidental to larn what made his colleagues tick, what they needed and wanted, and however helium could fulfill those demands to unafraid their votes erstwhile the infinitesimal of information arose.

It was cognition that came successful useful successful November 2004 erstwhile Mr. Daschle mislaid his re-election bid successful South Dakota and President George W. Bush defeated his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, to triumph a 2nd term. Some Democrats wondered if the enactment needed a much charismatic person than Mr. Reid, a soft-spoken and quirky erstwhile boxer from the tiny municipality of Searchlight, Nev., who was occasionally awkward and not precisely a mesmerizing media presence.

But by the clip the thought adjacent occurred to others, Mr. Reid had already utilized his well-honed skills to nail down the votes for the job.

“I thought astir it for an hour,” said Christopher J. Dodd, past a Democratic legislator from Connecticut, who said helium rapidly realized that challenging Mr. Reid would beryllium a “fool’s errand.”

“It was rather evident that Harry locked this happening up,” said Mr. Dodd, acknowledging that Mr. Reid had cautiously built up his basal of supporters.

“He was connected the level each day, each day, and helium knew each member, what their difficulties were and the things they liked,” said Mr. Dodd, an state of Mr. Reid who said helium had grown adjacent person to his erstwhile workfellow successful their post-Senate lives. “It was precisely the benignant of enactment you needed to execute arsenic bulk leader.”

Raised successful poorness with nary of the advantages that would look to beryllium prerequisites for almighty nationalist office, Mr. Reid was combative but besides compassionate, an property that contributed to his eventual zeal for laws to support undocumented immigrants brought to the United States arsenic children.

He could lb an adversary but, successful designation that someone’s ballot would beryllium needed successful the future, helium near country for moving unneurotic again. He knew however to cajole and bargain to triumph votes, but helium could beryllium ruthless arsenic well.

“Harry Reid was a precise analyzable person,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, a predominant people for disapproval from Mr. Reid but besides idiosyncratic who provided him with captious votes for the economical stimulus measure and the banking overhaul during the Obama era, among different measures. “He could beryllium incredibly benignant and caring, and helium could beryllium utterly relentless. It was a existent mixture, but helium did attraction astir the Senate and the senators.”

Ms. Collins, 1 of the Senate Republicans who attended Mr. Reid’s memorial work connected Saturday successful Las Vegas, has held onto idiosyncratic notes from her occasional adversary, including 1 commending her “tenacious” negotiating skills and signed “your caller person forever.”

Mr. Reid was consenting to sacrifice personally successful pursuit of what helium saw arsenic the greater governmental goal. With the Senate divided 50-to-50 aft the 2000 elections, Democrats were courting 2 Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and James M. Jeffords of Vermont, to go independents and manus Democrats control.

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Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Mr. McCain wanted to go president of the Commerce Committee successful return, but Senator Ernest F. Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina, was having nary of it and would not relinquish his post.

Mr. Reid, successful contrast, gave up his chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee — astir unthinkable to astir senators — to woo Mr. Jeffords. The Vermont legislator ended up switching parties, upending the Senate’s equilibrium of powerfulness successful favour of Mr. Reid and the Democrats.

“That was the deciding factor,” Mr. Daschle said. “Harry played the astir astonishing role.”

Mr. Reid’s pugnacious quality could onshore him successful trouble. He made a litany of remarks that could beryllium considered politically incorrect astatine champion and violative astatine worst, often requiring accelerated cleanup by unit members who sometimes cringed erstwhile helium spoke with the quality media.

“Reid was truly a blunt, plain-spoken idiosyncratic who would accidental what was connected his mind,” said Jim Manley, Mr. Reid’s longtime Senate spokesperson and communications chief, who said helium recovered the senator’s candor and willingness to disturbance things up refreshing.

“But it was not without governmental peril,” helium said. “And arsenic his spokesman, it gave maine tons of grey hair.”

Mr. Reid was capable to support friendships crossed the aisle contempt occasional rifts. He was consenting to mend fences with the arsenic fiery Mr. McCain, for instance, aft respective clashes, and helium remained adjacent with Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, who switched from Democrat to Republican successful 1994.

The relationship betwixt Mr. Reid and Mr. Shelby — 2 lawmakers who enjoyed utilizing their legislature expertise to get what they wanted — dated from their aboriginal days arsenic neighboring House members successful the Longworth House Office Building.

“We were adjuvant to each different wherever we could be,” Mr. Shelby said successful his typically understated fashion. “Harry was a applicable antheral and precise underestimated arsenic acold arsenic climbing that governmental ladder wrong the Senate.”

“He had a batch of integrity,” said Mr. Shelby, who besides attended Mr. Reid’s memorial service. “He was steadfast successful his beliefs and helium was honorable and was loyal to his friends.”

Even erstwhile helium returned to Nevada afloat clip aft not moving for re-election successful 2016, and agelong aft helium was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Mr. Reid continued to play powerfulness authorities until the end.

When Rahm Emanuel, the erstwhile White House main of unit and congressman, was moving successful September to circular up votes successful enactment of his information to beryllium ambassador to Japan, helium reached retired to Mr. Reid, with whom helium had worked intimately during the archetypal 2 years of the Obama administration. Mr. Emanuel was looking for assistance successful connecting with Nevada’s 2 Democratic senators, some protégés of Mr. Reid.

He did not person to hold long. Less than 10 minutes aft sending his inquiry, helium received his reply via text: “both are for emanuel going to Japan! H Reid.”

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