Tributes from lawmakers poured in for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid following the Nevada Democrat’s death on Tuesday — and not just from Democrats or lawmakers who held office at the same time as him.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed on Tuesday that Reid would offer her advice, even though she was elected to Congress after the Nevada Democrat had retired.
“Sometimes, in a quiet or difficult moment, Harry Reid would reach out. It was like he knew,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “His counsel, encouragement, kindness, and generosity was so deeply moving. It was sincere. And I will never forget it.”
Sometimes, in a quiet or difficult moment, Harry Reid would reach out. It was like he knew.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 29, 2021
His counsel, encouragement, kindness, and generosity was so deeply moving. It was sincere. And I will never forget it.
Thank you, Senator Reid. Wishing peace and strength to his family.
A number of Senate Democrats fondly remembered Reid’s tendency to hang up abruptly during phone conversations.
FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID DIES AT 82
“He would rarely say goodbye,” tweeted Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “He would just hang up while you were mid-sentence and then get it done.”
Sharing a letter he wrote to Reid to be read aloud to him as his health declined, former President Barack Obama joked to Reid: “You never liked to talk on the phone anyway.”
Reid was elected to the Senate in 1986 after spending four years in the House. Reid worked 30 years in the Senate, moving into the Senate Democratic leadership after the 2004 election. Reid was Senate majority leader for the final two years of George W. Bush's presidency and six of Obama's eight years in office.
On Wednesday, a few tributes came from the other side of the aisle.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee noted that growing up, Reid, a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was his family’s home teacher assigned by the church. Lee also became friends with Reid’s son. In a statement, he called the late Senate leader "a kind, caring friend."
But to many Republicans, Reid's legacy was destructive. Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton in 2016 accused Reid of employing "cancerous leadership."
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid alleged from the Senate floor that then-Republican presidential candidate and now-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes in a decade. That was false, but Reid never apologized for the move and later called it "one of the best things I’ve ever done."
At the time of publication, neither Romney nor Cotton had released a statement on Reid's death.
Republicans dislike Reid for ushering through the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and have long pointed the finger at him for employing the “nuclear option” — eliminating the 60-vote threshold to confirm presidential nominations, except for the Supreme Court. Later, Republicans also eliminated the threshold for Supreme Court confirmations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell famously foreshadowed the Republican move after Democrats went for the nuclear option in 2013: “You'll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”
In a statement Tuesday, McConnell displayed no bitterness toward Reid, contrasting with the highly personal nature of recent congressional disagreements.
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“When Harry retired from the Senate, we both celebrated the fact that our many differences had never really gotten personal,” McConnell said. “Harry’s and my paths in the Senate were roughly parallel. We seemed to reach each institutional milestone within just a few years of each other. I truly appreciated the sincere and cordial relationship we shared behind the scenes when passions cooled.”
“He will rightly go down in history as a crucial, pivotal figure in the development and history of his beloved home state,” McConnell added.