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Former Sen. Harry Reid was remembered Wednesday as a “legendary leader” as colleagues and friends gathered at the U.S. Capitol to pay tribute to a hardscrabble Democrat who rose from poverty in a dusty Nevada mining town to the most powerful position in the Senate.
Watch Schumer’s remarks in the player above.
Reid lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda while Vice President Kamala Harris, senators and others joined for a ceremony closed to the public under COVID-19 protocols. Reid, who had pancreatic cancer, died last month at age 82.
“To see him lead and legislate was to see a master at work,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Harry Reid made the world a better place,” Pelosi said. She called Reid “a legendary leader of great integrity.”
Reid served longer in Congress than anyone from his state and was the Senate majority leader alongside two presidents. He led the Senate during one of its more consequential legislative sessions, securing the economic recovery bill during the Great Recession and President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law.
Pelosi and Reid worked side by side, each leading a chamber, for several of those years.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Reid’s mentee and successor in the Senate, remembered his friend as “a fighter to his core, but one of the most compassionate individuals you could ever imagine.”
“Few have shaped the workings of this building, like our dear friend from Nevada. Few have dedicated their lives to the work of the people quite like Harry did. And today, our feelings of both loss and gratitude are immense,” Schumer said.
The few words Reid did say were often flinty and fiery. He was unafraid to take on presidents (he called George W. Bush a “loser”), criticize the fossil fuel industry (“coal makes us sick”) or declare the war in Iraq “lost.” He titled his 2008 autobiography “The Good Fight.”
Influential in retirement, Reid said Biden should give his new presidency just three weeks to try to work with Republicans. If not, Biden should force changes in the Senate’s filibuster rules to allow simple majority passage of elections and voting rights legislation and other priorities, Reid said.
Reid was born in the desolate mining town of Searchlight. His father was a hard-rock miner who committed suicide. His mother did laundry at home for bordellos.
Reid hitchhiked some 40 miles to attend high school and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he made his way through college and law school. An amateur boxer, he once leveled a punch at his future father-in-law after being denied a date with Landra Gould, who would become his wife. They were married for 62 years.
First elected to the House in 1982 and reelected in 1984, Reid then served 30 years in the Senate, including a decade as the Senate Democratic leader.
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