Former Democratic leader Harry Reid dies at 82

By Aditi Sangal and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:06 p.m. ET, December 29, 2021
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:12 p.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Biden orders flags flown at half-staff in honor of Harry Reid

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Biden issued a proclamation Wednesday ordering White House flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"From humble roots in Searchlight, Nevada, Harry Reid rose to become one of the great Senate Majority Leaders in American history. He was a man of action, and a man of his word — guided by faith, loyalty, and unshakeable resolve," Biden said.

“Throughout his long career of public service, Harry Reid was instrumental in passing landmark legislation that made a positive difference in the lives of countless Americans and made our Nation stronger and safer. His devoted service to our Nation was not about power for power's sake. It was about the power to do right by the American people,” Biden continued.

9:16 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Politicians try to hide their flaws, Harry Reid "would announce them publicly," Sen. Dick Durbin says

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin remembered the late former Sen. Harry Reid who died on Tuesday at the age of 82.

"Most politicians spend a lifetime trying to hide their flaws. Harry would announce them publicly. A lot of politicians like to talk about their log cabin childhood. He wrote a book about growing up in degrading poverty in a troubled family in Searchlight, Nevada. Harry didn't run away from who he really was. And I think that authenticity is what made him such a powerful effective leader," he told CNN.

Remembering Reid as a "tough guy when he needed to be," Durbin noted the former Democratic Senate leader's contribution to passing the Affordable Care Act.

"Think about that as a legacy, that you helped 10% of the people living in America have the peace of mind to know that they have affordable quality health insurance. That alone was an amazing achievement and Harry was tough enough to get it done," Durbin said Wednesday.

Durbin, who served as a whip for Reid, said, "Harry inspired me, and a lot of people who work in the Senate today, to keep focused on what the prize is."


9:18 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Harris on Reid: "Our country has lost an honorable public servant"

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris released a statement last night honoring the career of Harry Reid, saying the former Senate majority leader was "kind, generous, and always to the point" when he spoke.

She said the country lost an "honorable public servant."

Read her full statement:

"Our country has lost an honorable public servant. Harry Reid rose through the ranks in Washington, becoming Senate Majority Leader, but he never forgot his humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada – and he always fought for working families and the poor. Leader Reid also got things done: from expanding access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, to getting economic relief to families and businesses through the Recovery Act, and much more, he made a meaningful difference in people’s lives. 
Whenever we had a chance to speak, Leader Reid was kind, generous, and always to the point. Tonight, Landra and the entire Reid family are in our thoughts."
8:09 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

GOP and Democratic lawmakers pay their tributes to Harry Reid

From CNN's Dan Merica and Paul LeBlanc

Despite his blunt political style, former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid inspired fierce respect from many of his fellow lawmakers — even those across the aisle.

"He was my leader, my mentor, one of my dearest friends," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday evening. "He's gone but he will walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every single day."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, as the House's top Democrat for the last 20 years, worked with Reid across the Capitol, called him a "leader of immense courage and ferocious conviction who worked tirelessly to achieve historic progress for the American people."

"Over more than four decades of public service, Senator Reid was guided always by his North Star: to improve the lives of working families like his own," she added in a statement reflecting on his death.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was frequently at odds with Reid during their lengthy careers, remembered him as a "one-of-a-kind" senator, saying their relationship had transcended political fights.

"The nature of Harry's and my jobs brought us into frequent and sometimes intense conflict over politics and policy. But I never doubted that Harry was always doing what he earnestly, deeply felt was right for Nevada and our country," the Kentucky Republican said. "He will rightly go down in history as a crucial, pivotal figure in the development and history of his beloved home state."

Reid also used his power to lift up the careers of younger politicians, like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, whom the former Senate majority leader recruited to run for his seat when he was retiring in 2016.

"Harry Reid was a champion for Nevada, helping preserve our precious environmental treasures, strengthen our rural communities, and build up our great cities," Cortez Masto recalled in a statement on Tuesday. "The American people are better off because of the leadership of Senator Harry Reid."
7:59 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Former Presidents honor Reid's career and legacy

From CNN's Dan Merica and Paul LeBlanc

Former President Barack Obama released a letter he had written to Harry Reid before his death in lieu of a statement.

"I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination," Obama wrote. "Here's what I want you to know. You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect."

"As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other - a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And you know what, we made for a pretty good team," he added.

Former President Bill Clinton also lauded Reid, remembering him as "one of the most effective Senate leaders our country has ever known."

"We will likely never see another public servant quite like him—in personality, command of strategy and tactics, and assuredness in marching to the beat of his own drum," Clinton said in a statement.

9:18 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Biden calls Reid one of "the all-time great Senate Majority Leaders in our history"

From CNN's Dan Merica and Paul LeBlanc

Harry Reid, the scrappy former Democratic Senate leader who spearheaded epic legislative battles through three decades in Congress, died on Tuesday at the age of 82.

President Biden, who served with Reid in the Senate, called him one of "the all-time great Senate Majority Leaders in our history" in a statement Tuesday.

He added:

"During the two decades we served together in the United States Senate, and the eight years we worked together while I served as Vice President, Harry met the marker for what I've always believed is the most important thing by which you can measure a person—their action and their word."
"If Harry said he would do something, he did it. If he gave you his word, you could bank on it. That's how he got things done for the good of the country for decades."

Biden also tweeted a tribute for Reid, calling him "a dear friend and a giant of our history."

7:44 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Longtime former US Sen. Harry Reid died at 82 after a 4-year battle with pancreatic cancer

From CNN's Dan Merica and Paul LeBlanc

Harry Reid, the scrappy former Democratic Senate leader who spearheaded epic legislative battles through three decades in Congress, has died at the age of 82, according to a statement from his wife, Landra Reid.

"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," she said in a statement Tuesday.

Reid rose from humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada, to become the most powerful politician in Nevada history, capping off his political career as the Democratic leader in the Senate, including eight years in the majority.

He underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2018 and said less than a year later that he was in remission. At the time, he told CNN's Dana Bash that he felt "very good" and that he was "doing fine." But Reid responded to his cancer diagnosis with his usual bluntness, telling The New York Times in 2019: "As soon as you discover you have something on your pancreas, you're dead."

Despite Reid's reputation as a hard bargainer with no qualms about scrapping with his opponents, he was also known as a romantic and the most influential person in his life was his wife, Landra. The two met in high school when Reid was 15. Her father was so opposed to the two dating that Reid and his would-be father-in-law got into a fist fight early in their courtship.

Reid, who was raised agnostic, told Bash in 2015 that their opposition was that they wanted their daughter to marry someone Jewish. They eloped in 1959 during college, converting to Mormonism a year later. Her parents finally came around on him.

Read more about Reid's life here.