Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader, dies at 82

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with Roll Call about Nevada politics, the presidential race and baseball in his office at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Tuesday, July 2, 2019.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader and Nevada’s longest-serving member of Congress, has died. He was 82.

Reid died Tuesday, “peacefully” and surrounded by friends “following a courageous, four-year battle with pancreatic cancer,” Landra Reid said of her husband in a statement.

“Harry was a devout family man and deeply loyal friend,” she said. “We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from so many over these past few years. We are especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that cared for him. Please know that meant the world to him.”

Funeral arrangements would be announced in coming days, she said.

The combative former boxer-turned-lawyer was widely-acknowledged as one of toughest dealmakers in Congress, a conservative Democrat in an increasingly polarized chamber who vexed lawmakers of both parties with a brusque manner and this motto:

“I would rather dance than fight, but I know how to fight.”

Over a 34-year career in Washington, Reid thrived on behind-the-scenes wrangling and kept the Senate controlled by his party through two presidents — Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama — a crippling recession and the Republican takeover of the House after the 2010 elections.

He retired in 2016 after an accident left him blind in one eye.

Reid in May 2018 revealed he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing treatment.

Less than two weeks ago, officials and Reid’s son, Rory Reid, marked the renaming of the busy Las Vegas airport as Harry Reid International Airport. Rory Reid is a former Clark County Commission chairman and Democratic Nevada gubernatorial candidate.

Neither Harry nor Landra Reid attended the Dec. 14 ceremony held at the facility that had been known since 1948 as McCarran International Airport, after a former U.S. senator from Nevada, Pat McCarran, and today ranks as one of the 10 busiest airports in the U.S.

The Clark County Commission voted unanimously last February to make the name change, and the Federal Aviation Administration began listing the new name on aviation charts last June.

Among many other projects that Reid brought support for in Nevada — and a notable national nuclear waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain that as Senate majority leader he blocked — Reid pushed for development of the Terminal 3 international arrivals annex that opened at the airport in June 2012.

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