Politics

Biden and Obama honor Harry Reid at Las Vegas memorial service

LAS VEGAS – President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama memorialized late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday, as Democratic leaders from across the country gathered to call Reed — often laughing — as a man whose impatience for compliments was part of a campaign Improving the lives of ordinary Americans.

The turnout at Reed’s memorial service in Las Vegas testified to Reed’s influence on some of the most important legislation of the twenty-first century, despite having grown up in his childhood poverty and deprivation in Nevada. Biden escorted Reed’s widow, Landra Reed, to her seat at the start of mass, before an honor guard carried a flag-wrapped coffin into a quiet hall well.

Reed died December 28 at his home in Henderson, Nevada, at the age of 82 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

“There is no doubt. Harry Reid will be considered one of the greatest Senate majority leaders in history,” Biden said, as leaders praised Reid’s work in promoting health care, Wall Street reform and economic recovery in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who described Reid to mourners as a “really honest and innovative figure,” spoke during an invitation-only memorial service. Former President Barack Obama, who credits Reid with his rise to the White House, delivered the eulogy.

When he helped Reed pass the Affordable Care Act, Obama said, he “didn’t do it to polish his own legacy,” recalling how, as a boy, Reed’s family was so poor that Reed himself pulled out one of his father’s teeth.

“He did it for people back home and families like him, who needed someone to look out for, when no one else did,” Obama said.

“The thing about Harry, he never gave up. He never gave up.” Biden, who served for two decades with Reid in the Senate and worked with him for eight years when Biden was vice president, said he never gave in to anyone who cared about him.

“If Harry said he would do something, he did,” Biden added. “You can count on it.”

Reed’s son, Liv, was one of a series of speakers who recalled his father’s well-known habit of suddenly hanging up phone calls without saying goodbye, occasionally letting the other person—whether an influential politician or close family member—talk away for several minutes beforehand. They realized it was no longer there.

Liv Reid said it was “part of the narrative” of his father’s life, and he tried to explain that the gesture was more about Reed keeping family time.

“When I hang up with you, maybe so quickly, it’s not so much about him being so rude as being devoted to my mom,” Liv Reed said.

“I’ve probably hung Harry Reid the most, two or three times a day, for 12 years,” Pelosi told the mourners.

“Sometimes I called him back and said to Harry, ‘I’ve been singing you praise,'” Pelosi said, ‘I don’t want to hear it,’ Reid replied, before she heard the phone click dead.

Reid served for 34 years in Washington and led the Senate through a stifling recession and the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives after the 2010 election.

Harry Mason Reed traveled 40 miles to get to high school and was an amateur boxer before being elected to the Nevada State Assembly at the age of 28. He graduated from Utah State University and Lyall worked as a police officer in the U.S. Capitol while attending George Washington University Law School in Washington.

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In 1970, at the age of 30, he was elected deputy governor with Democratic Governor Mike O’Callaghan. Reed was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 and the Senate in 1986.

He built a political machine in Nevada that for years helped Democrats win major elections. When he retired in 2016 after having a home exercise accident that left him blind in one eye, former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez chose Masto to replace him.

Cortez Masto became the first Nevada woman and the first Latina to be elected to the Senate.

Those flying into Las Vegas will arrive at the newly renamed Harry Reid International Airport. It was previously named for Pat McCarran, the former Democratic senator from Nevada who once owned the airport whose legacy of racism and anti-Semitism has clouded it.

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