WASHINGTON — President Biden and former President Barack Obama honored Harry M. Reid on Saturday as a loyal son of Nevada who rose to change into a plain-spoken however pivotal chief within the Senate, the place he steered landmark Democratic laws whereas tolerating little vainness or reward.
“Harry cared a lot about his fellow People and so little about what anyone considered him,” Mr. Biden mentioned at a memorial service for Mr. Reid, who died late final month at 82, on the Smith Heart for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.
“He was all Searchlight, no highlight,” the president added, referring to the mining outpost in Nevada the place Mr. Reid grew up.
Together with the present and former president, the memorial service additionally included testimonials from different distinguished Democrats, together with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the bulk chief, an indication of Mr. Reid’s affect on his social gathering. Vice President Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, in addition to Jill Biden, the primary woman, have been additionally seated within the viewers.
Every speaker, together with Mr. Reid’s daughter and three sons, spoke of his ardour for the Senate and love for his residence state. His son Leif Reid famous that his father was such a fan of the Las Vegas-based band the Killers that he requested that its lead singer, Brandon Flowers, sing at his memorial service.
Earlier than performing Nevada’s state music, “Residence Means Nevada,” Mr. Flowers advised the viewers a narrative of visiting the Capitol and being directed by Mr. Reid to carry out the music for Mr. Schumer.
Different audio system recounted tales of the tenacity of Mr. Reid, a former boxer, as he guided monumental Democratic victories by way of Congress, together with a sweeping financial stimulus plan in response to the Nice Recession, a brand new algorithm to rein in Wall Avenue and probably the most important enlargement of well being care protection for the reason that Nice Society of the Nineteen Sixties.
“Let there be little doubt: Harry Reid will likely be thought-about one of many biggest Senate majority leaders in historical past,” Mr. Biden mentioned.
Mr. Reid grew to become the face of Senate Democrats after being elected by his colleagues because the minority chief in 2005, after which grew to become majority chief in 2007 when Democrats took management of the chamber. He would tackle all comers, Republican or Democrat, and was identified for a blunt strategy that often bought him in hassle.
Ms. Pelosi recalled Mr. Reid as a person of few phrases.
“And he needed all people else to be an individual of few phrases,” she mentioned.
Ms. Pelosi joined different audio system in describing Mr. Reid’s penchant for hanging up the phone on his colleagues. He couldn’t tolerate dragging out a dialog with a farewell. She described his modesty: He as soon as shut down her try to have a good time his accomplishments by throwing him a cocktail party for his retirement.
“I don’t need to do it,” Ms. Pelosi recalled Mr. Reid telling her. “Save the cash. Feed the poor.”
Ms. Pelosi mentioned she by no means heard Mr. Reid say “an unkind phrase about any of his Senate colleagues,” prompting a truth test from Mr. Obama.
“I don’t learn about that, Nancy,” Mr. Obama mentioned later because the viewers broke out in laughter. “However he would work with them.”
After a famously hardscrabble upbringing in Searchlight and a begin in state politics, Mr. Reid was elected to the Home in 1982 and the Senate in 1986. He served because the No. 2 Senate Democrat when Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota was the social gathering chief, and when Mr. Daschle misplaced his re-election bid in 2004, Mr. Reid rapidly outmaneuvered potential rivals for the highest slot.
Because the Democratic chief, Mr. Reid jousted with President George W. Bush, whom he as soon as labeled a “loser,” over the struggle in Iraq and varied home points. Democrats rode voter dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush to Senate management within the 2006 elections.
In late 2008, as Mr. Bush’s second time period wound down, Mr. Reid was instrumental in working with the White Home to stave off a nationwide financial collapse by steering the $700 billion Troubled Asset Reduction Program by way of Congress and stabilizing the economic system.
Mr. Reid took decidedly conservative stances early in his profession, notably opposing abortion and looser immigration legal guidelines. However his positions shifted because the demographics of his state modified, and he finally grew to become a champion of undocumented immigrants and a supporter of abortion entry. Mr. Obama mentioned that after Mr. Reid launched laws to repeal birthright citizenship, Mr. Reid’s spouse, Landra, swayed him on immigration by reminding him that her father had been a Russian immigrant.
Mr. Obama added: “Later, Harry would say, ‘I got here to the conclusion that I used to be method off base. I’m so glad she righted the ship.’”
Mr. Reid inspired Mr. Obama to run for president earlier than the 2008 election despite the fact that Mr. Obama was a junior member of the Senate on the time. And after Mr. Obama gained the White Home, Mr. Reid was one in every of his most reliable and necessary allies, utilizing each legislative weapon at his disposal to win approval of the financial stimulus invoice and, most critically, the Inexpensive Care Act, which memorably handed the Senate in 2009 throughout a blizzard on Christmas Eve.
“The offers Harry made to get that regulation carried out didn’t all the time look fairly,” Mr. Obama mentioned, including: “Every time I might object to a change he needed to make, whether or not due to some coverage issues or worries in regards to the optics, Harry would inform me with some exasperation in his voice, ‘Mr. President, you already know much more than I do about well being care coverage, OK? However I do know the Senate.’”
Mr. Biden, a former senator who’s now struggling to go his personal sweeping home coverage invoice, grew animated whereas describing Mr. Reid’s negotiation techniques and congressional victories. “If Harry mentioned he was going to do one thing, he did it,” he mentioned, including: “You possibly can financial institution on it. That’s how he bought a lot carried out for the great of the nation for thus many a long time.”
Democrats skilled important losses in 2010 however held on to the Senate, whereas Mr. Reid himself survived a powerful problem from an opponent aligned with the far proper. Mr. Reid, who suffered important accidents throughout a house exercising accident in 2015, selected to not run for re-election in 2016 and returned to Nevada, the place he remained a serious political energy dealer.
Mr. Obama closed his remarks with the phrase Mr. Reid shunned throughout his cellphone calls, the farewell he didn’t deem mandatory.
“However it’s for us,” Mr. Obama mentioned. “Goodbye, Harry.”