Harry Reid, a 30-year veteran of the upper chamber of Congress and former boxer who led the Senate Democrats from 2005 to 2017, passed away at the age of 82 on Tuesday. Reid had been battling pancreatic cancer since his diagnosis in 2018.
Reid was first elected to the body in 1987. Prior to that, he served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and as a congressman.
As the Democratic leader, he shepherded the Affordable Care Act through the Senate in 2010 and used the so-called nuclear option to push through President Barack Obama’s nominees to federal district and appeals courts, lowering the necessary threshold to end debate on a nomination from 60 to a simple majority.
The latter decision was later used by Senate Republicans to justify applying the same rule change to Supreme Court nominees shortly after Reid left office in 2017.
Reid was a controversial, cutthroat figure in the Senate — admired by his allies and reviled by his opponents. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he repeatedly made the false allegation that Republican nominee Mitt Romney had not paid taxes for ten years, later calling the lie “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
While Reid was an unabashedly partisan Democrat, many of his positions would be unrecognizable to the current Senate Democratic caucus; he advocated overturning Roe v. Wade and was against same-sex marriage for most of his career.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Reid’s successor and former deputy, reacted to Reid’s passing by calling him “one of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met.”
“He’s gone but will walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every day,” Schumer continued.
Reid is survived by his wife, Landra, five children, and 19 grandchildren.