- Former U.S. Senator from Nevada
- Was involved in a number of serious ethics scandals
- Detested conservatives
- Staunch supporter of a pathway-to-citizenship for illegal aliens residing in the United States
- Used his immense influence to help pass Obamacare in 2010
- Died on December 28, 2021
Harry Mason Reid was born on December 2, 1939 in Searchlight, Nevada. He earned an AS degree from Southern Utah University in 1959, a BS (in history and political science) from Utah State University in 1961, and a JD from George Washington University in 1964. During his years at Utah State, he became a member of the Mormon Church.
After completing law school, Reid took a job as a city attorney in Henderson, Nevada. In 1967 he was elected, as a Democrat, to the Nevada State Assembly. From 1970-74 he served as the state’s lieutenant governor. In 1974 he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, and a year later he lost an election for mayor of Las Vegas.
Reid then worked as a private-practice attorney for the next 8 years. He also chaired the Nevada Gaming Commission (a part-time position) from 1977 until 1982, at which point he was elected to represent Nevada’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served two terms. In 1986 he won a seat (representing Nevada) in the U.S. Senate, where he has been re-elected every six years ever since.
Reid served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee from 2001-03, Senate Minority Whip from 2003-04, and Senate Minority Leader from 2005-06. When the Democrats took control of the Senate in the 2006 elections, Reid became Senate Majority Leader—a post he continues to hold.
CONTEMPT FOR CONSERVATIVES
Reid holds conservatives in low regard, as evidenced by his assertion, in an August 2013 radio interview, that members of the Tea Party movement “have the same philosophy as the early anarchists” of the World War I era: “They do not believe in government. Anytime anything bad happens to government, that’s a victory to them.”
In the same interview, Reid, who also has implied that conservatism and racism commonly go hand-in-hand, expressed dismay over Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s multiple assertions during 2010-12 that his top priority was to prevent President Barack Obama‘s re-election. “Here we are seven months into [Obama’s] second term,” said Reid, “and nothing has changed. It’s been obvious they are doing everything they can to make him fail. And I hope, I hope, and I say this seriously, it’s that based on substance and not the fact that he’s an African-American.”
Notably, Reid himself, in 2004, was not at all reluctant to disparage black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a noted conservative, as an incompetent who “has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.”
Reid again took aim at Justice Thomas in July 2014, after Thomas had voted with the 5-4 majority in the so-called Hobby Lobby case, which upheld the religious rights of “closely held” companies not to offer their employees health-insurance coverage for certain forms of birth control that they (the employers) viewed as abortifacients. Criticizing the Justices who had rendered this majority decision, Reid said: “The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives [i.e., access to birth control that is paid for by insurance policies] are not determined by the virtues of five white men.” But in fact, only four of the five Justices in the majority were white. The fifth was Clarence Thomas.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial subsequently slammed Reid:
“Sen. Reid’s slip was no accident. He believes racial and ethnic minorities are ideologically monolithic constituencies who are incapable of independent or — gasp! — right-of-center thinking. In the majority leader’s mind, Mr. Thomas is not an African-American because the justice doesn’t blindly subscribe to liberal orthodoxy.”
Reid also gave voice to his contempt for conservatives during a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon in 2009, when he told Bob Brown, director of advertising for the Las Vegas Review Journal—a publication known for holding political viewpoints diametrically opposed to those of the Senator—“I hope you go out of business.” Journal publisher Sherman Frederick subsequently posted an Op-Ed column in which he described Reid’s remark, and the spirit behind it, as “ugly,” “boorish,” “creepy,” and “asinine.”
In March 2016, Reid said: “When [Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump calls immigrants ‘rapists and murderers,’ he’s just doing what he’s learned from generations of conservatives.”**
“TAKE BACK AMERICA” CONFERENCE
In 2006, Reid was on the list of 153 guest speakers who addressed that year’s Take Back America conference, which was organized by the the Campaign for America’s Future and the Institute for Policy Studies.
CRITIC OF PRESIDENT BUSH & THE IRAQ WAR
During the George W. Bush administration, Reid was one of the Senate’s most vocal critics of both the president and the Iraq War:
* In a May 7, 2005 speech at Del Sol High School in Paradise, Nevada, Reid said of Bush: “I think this guy is a loser.”
* When President Bush, early in his presidency, called for the construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reid said: “President Bush is a liar. He betrayed Nevada and he betrayed the country.”
* In an April 2, 2007 television interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, Reid declared: “The American people … have to understand what is happening. It is not worth another drop of American blood in Iraq. It is not worth another damaged brain.” (The timing of this interview was significant. It took place shortly after President Bush had initiated a “troop surge”—still far from complete—that was slated to deploy a total of 21,000 additional soldiers in an effort to quell the insurgent violence in Iraq and win the war. It was impossible to determine, at that time, whether or not the surge would successfully achieve these objectives.)
* On April 19, 2007, Reid said: “I support, with Senator [Russ] Feingold, legislation that would start redeployment [withdrawal of troops] in 120 days, and there would be a cut-off date April 1, 2008.”
* Also on April 19, 2007, Reid, counseling American surrender, stated publicly: “I believe … that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything.”
* Upon hearing Reid’s comments, an American serviceman stationed in Ramadi, Iraq remarked: “Good thing this guy Reid wasn’t around in 1940 when Winston Churchill promised the people of Great Britain nothing but ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat.’” Similarly, a Guardsman who had recently returned from Mesopotamia with a Purple Heart opined that Reid had become “Al Qaeda‘s most powerful ally.”
* In a June 2007 interview with a group of leftist bloggers, Reid characterized Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as “incompetent.” The senator made similar disparaging remarks about Army General David Petraeus, the overseer of all U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq.
Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell offered the following observations about the motives underlying Reid’s impassioned claims that that the U.S. war effort was doomed:
“If victory in Iraq was oversold at the outset, there are now signs that defeat is likewise being oversold today. One of the earliest signs of this was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he could not wait for General David Petraeus’ September report on conditions in Iraq but tried to get an immediate Congressional mandate to pull the troops out. Having waited for years, why could he not wait until September for the report by the general who is actually on the ground in Iraq every day? Why was it necessary for politicians in Washington to declare the troop surge a failure from 8,000 miles away? The most obvious answer is that Senator Reid feared that the surge would turn out not to be a failure — and the Democrats had bet everything, including their chances in the 2008 elections, on an American defeat in Iraq. Senator Reid had to pre-empt defeat before General Petraeus could report progress.”
When General Petraeus later reported that there were indeed signs of significant progress in the surge, Reid said: “No. I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening.” Ultimately, Reid was proven to be entirely wrong on the matter; the surge in fact turned the tide of the war and decimated the Iraqi resistance.
IMMIGRATION & RELATED ISSUES
In 1993, when Republicans controlled Congress and were trying to pass an immigration-reform bill, Reid was a vocal opponent of such reform, saying such things as:
* “Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs.”
* “Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits, often without paying taxes.”
* “Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world.”
* “Even worse, Americans have seen heinous crimes committed by individuals who are here illegally.”
* “In 1986, we granted amnesty—and I voted against that provision in law—we granted amnesty to 3.2 million illegal immigrants. After being in this country for 10 years, the average amnesty recipient had a sixth-grade education, earned less than $6 an hour, and presently qualifies for the earned-income tax credit…. It is clear that there is growing public dissatisfaction with our Nation’s immigration policies. The American people are demanding reforms that will restore order to an immigration system they perceive to be out of control…. In 1993 … at Los Angeles County Hospital … 67 percent of the births were to illegal alien mothers. The State of California needs to build a school a day to keep up with the incoming immigrant children—a school a day. According to a recent study out of Dartmouth, for every seven immigrants who enter the job market, one blue-collar American worker loses a job.”
Also in 1993, Reid said: “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee a full access to all public and social services this society provides – and that’s a lot of services.”
But in subsequent years, Reid became a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform offering a pathway-to-citizenship to the millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States:
* In 2001 he placed an earmark in a bill designed to funnel $5 million of taxpayer funds to the National Council of La Raza, an open-borders organization.
* In June 2009, as Senate Majority Leader, he vowed “to do comprehensive immigration reform”—not in a “piecemeal” fashion but rather “all at once.” The preferred policy, Reid said, would “include taking care of our borders, a decent guest-worker program, bringing the 11 million people out of the shadows, doing something that’s so important with the employer sanctions bill …”
* On September 14, 2010, Reid announced that he would add the DREAM Act—legislation designed to establish permanent residency and create a path-to-citizenship for illegals who first came to the U.S. as minors—onto a defense authorization bill which the Senate was scheduled to consider the following week. Reid’s hope was to force Republicans who wished to vote in favor of the defense bill—a measure that would normally pass with bipartisan support—to also vote for the DREAM Act.
In recent years, Reid has expressed his support for the continued federal funding of sanctuary cities.
Reid strongly believes that the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by human industrial activity and fossil-fuel combustion are destroying the Earth’s environment. In June 2008, he said, “Coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. And this global warming is ruining our country. It’s ruining the world.” That same year, Reid advocated a ban on all oil exploration in the massive shale depositories of America’s western states, which are estimated to hold between 800 billion and 2 trillion barrels of oil.
REID’S SPENDING EXCESSES
In 2008, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a non-partisan government watchdog group, named Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as its co-“Porkers of the Year” because of what CAGW viewed as their consistent record of fiscal irresponsibility.
Three years later, Reid strongly opposed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 (HR 2560), a Republican proposal that called for a decrease in the total amount of federal government spending, a cap on future spending as a percentage of GDP, and the passage of a balanced-budget amendment. Characterizing the bill as being “about as weak and senseless as anything that has ever come on this Senate floor,” Reid said: “I am not going to waste the Senate’s time day after day on this piece of legislation…. The American people should understand that this is a bad piece of legislation, perhaps some of the worst legislation in the history of this country.”
“YOU COULD LITERALLY SMELL THE TOURISTS”
On December 2, 2021, Reid said: “My staff has always said, ‘Don’t say this,’ but I’m going to say it again because it’s so descriptive, because it’s true … In the summertime, because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. And that may be descriptive, but it’s true.”
REID TELLS ILLINOIS GOVERNOR WHOM HE SHOULD APPOINT — OR NOT APPOINT — TO FILL PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S NEWLY VACATED U.S. SENATE SEAT (THOSE HE DISAPPROVED OF WERE ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS)
On January 3, 2009, the Chicago Sun-Times reported: “Days before [Illinois] Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis, or Emil Jones. Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan….”
The American Thinker noted: “The Sun-Times doesn’t bother noticing that the three rejected names all belong to African-Americans. Add in Roland Burris, whom Reid also opposes, and you get four blacks rejected by Reid, with 2 whites meeting the Majority Leader’s approval.”
Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters.com wrote: “Imagine for a moment the Senate was currently controlled by Republicans, and the white male majority leader advised Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich not to pick a black candidate to fill president-elect Barack Obama’s vacated seat instead pressuring the governor to choose between two white candidates, do you think this would get some media attention?”
In 2009, when the pro-socialist, pro-Democrat community organization ACORN was mired in multiple scandals—including voter-registration fraud, embezzlement, and the countenancing of underage prostitution—Reid refused to hold a congressional hearing on the group’s activities. With regard to the prostitution operation, the senator claimed not only that Republicans’ “interest in this matter is driven, at least in part, by partisan political views,” but also that a congressional investigation might distract attention from “more pressing priorities, including healthcare reform and economic recovery.”
Reid Ridicules Opponents
In August 2009, during the debate over healthcare reform, Reid derided town hall protesters who vocally expressed their opposition to the big-government proposals that President Obama and the Democrats were pushing, as “evil-mongers” who were using “lies, innuendo and rumor” to drown out rational debate.
On December 7, 2009, Reid likened conservative foes of healthcare reform to people who, in earlier eras, had opposed women’s suffrage and the civil-rights movement. Said the senator:
“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, ‘slow down, stop everything, let’s start over.’ If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said ‘slow down, it’s too early, things aren’t bad enough. When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn’t quite right. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today.”
Reid’s Backroom Deals
In late 2009, 60 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate were Democrats. The rules governing the passage of legislation in the Senate normally required at least 60 votes to block a filibuster by the opposition party (in this case, Republicans). Thus, to avoid a Republican filibuster and keep the healthcare-reform bill alive, Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, needed all 60 of those Democrat votes. But there were still two significant Democratic holdouts—Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
To win Landrieu’s support, Reid and Obama offered $100 million in extra federal funds for her home state. In a deal that became known, by critics, as “The Louisiana Purchase,” Landrieu negotiated that sum up to $300 million and then voted in favor of the bill.
And to gain the backing of Nelson—who threatened to filibuster the bill because of its provision to fund abortion services and its call for increased Medicaid spending by the states—the Nebraska senator was promised special treatment that would shield his state from having to pay for the “newly eligible” Medicaid enrollees that Obamacare would produce.
News of this agreement—dubbed “The Cornhusker Kickback” by critics—subsequently sparked widespread public outrage. The most vocal protester was Arnold Schwarzenegger, the only Republican governor to support Obamacare, who demanded that every other state in the country get the same deal given to Nebraska. And that, in the end, is precisely what happened.
The Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority of 60 senators was now in place.
On the near political horizon, however, was a special election scheduled for January 19, 2010 in the state of Massachusetts, where voters would go to the polls and choose a replacement for the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who, after his death in August 2009, had been succeeded by interim Senator Paul Kirk (a Democrat appointed by Democratic Governor Deval Patrick).
Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats were desperate to pass their healthcare-reform bill prior to that special election in Massachusetts—given that a Republican victory there would erase the Democrats’ slim, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Thus they passed the legislation on the morning of December 24, 2009, without a single Republican vote.
The Election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts
On January 19, 2010—in a remarkable vote that was largely a referendum on the state’s views regarding Obamacare—Republican Scott Brown was elected to the same Senate seat that Ted Kennedy, a longtime proponent of government-run healthcare, had held for almost half a century.
Brown’s election as the Senate Republicans’ 41st vote against Obamacare had enormous significance. He could not stop the bill’s passage in the Senate, of course, since the Senate had already passed it on Christmas Eve of 2009. But his election meant that the Republicans now had enough Senate votes to reject any modifications that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats might seek to make to the bill. In other words, the House would have to either accept or reject the Senate bill as it was.
This presented a major problem for Reid and the Democrats, since the House—though Democrat-controlled—still did not have enough members willing to vote in favor of the Senate version of the bill. In other words, House approval was contingent upon incorporating a number of changes, or “fixes,” into that bill. But, as noted above, Senate Republicans now had enough leverage to block the House from making any such changes.
Reid’s Procedural Maneuver
To address this situation, Reid—having lost his filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate—now needed to find a way to empower the _Senate to make the fixes that the House Democrats wanted, and get enough senators to vote in favor of those changes before sending the bill over to the House.
Knowing that he could no longer count on the 60 votes he would need in order to block a Republican filibuster, Reid resorted to a parliamentary procedural gimmick: When he put the necessary fixes up for vote in the Senate, he did so under the rules of the so-called reconciliation process.
* Reconciliation is a process that was originally created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to affect only permanent spending and revenue programs intended to promote deficit reduction and a balanced budget. Reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered and require only a simple (not three-fifths) majority to pass.
* But as the Heritage Foundation explained, Obamacare did not in any way meet the criteria necessary to qualify legitimately as a reconciliation matter:
“According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), ‘federal outlays for health care would increase during the 2010–2019 period, as would the federal budgetary commitment to health care’ in the Senate and House bills. The bills both commit the federal government to over $2 trillion in spending. Clearly, adding Obamacare to a reconciliation process would be quite contrary to the spirit of reconciliation (to reduce the deficit)…. Reconciliation was not intended to be the procedure of last resort when other means fail, and to do so would be a complete abuse of reconciliation rules.”
In the final analysis, Reid and the Senate Democrats passed Obamacare as a spending/budget bill, so as to exploit the reconciliation process and avoid the traditional requirement of 60 Senate votes to block a filibuster. They did all this even though the Constitution explicitly states that all spending and budget bills must originate in the House of Representatives—and not in the Senate.
After the Democrat-majority Senate had passed the amended healthcare-reform bill (with zero Republican votes), they sent it to the Democrat-controlled House, which also passed it, without any changes, on March 21, 2010—by a margin of 7 votes (and with no Republican support whatsoever). The bill was then signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.
Reid’s Opposition to Private-Sector Involvement in Healthcare
In October 2010 Reid indicated that he opposed any private-sector involvement in the healthcare system, saying: “Insurance companies don’t do things out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it out of a profit motive and they have almost destroyed our economy.”
*_The Longterm Goal: A Single-Payer System_
In an August 2013 appearance on the Las Vegas PBS program Nevada Week in Review, Reid was asked whether his goal was to eventually transform Obamacare into a single-payer system, and he answered, “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.” He then explained that before it could be politically feasible to pursue such a system, Americans would have to gradually “work our way past” insurance-based health care. “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction,” said Reid, “but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
Reid Exempts His Own Staffers from Obamacare’s Higher Costs
In September 2013, Reid told reporters who questioned whether he and his colleagues and staffers would thenceforth be purchasing their own health insurance through the newly created, website-based Obamacare “exchanges” or marketplaces: “Let’s stop these really juvenile political games—the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of the exchanges. That’s what the law says and we’ll be part of that.” But three months later, it was learned that Reid had decided to exempt his committee and leadership staffers from having to buy insurance through those exchanges.
REID PRAISES OBAMA FOR BEING “LIGHT-SKINNED” AND POSSESSING “NO NEGRO DIALECT”
In January 2010, it was reported that a forthcoming book by Mark Halperin, titled Game Change, quoted Senator Reid as having said, during the 2008 presidential campaign, that Barack Obama stood a good chance of winning the election because, among other things, he is “light-skinned” and has “no negro dialect”—“unless he wants to have one.” When media outlets began reporting this, Reid quickly said: “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.”
REID TAKES CREDIT FOR AVERTING “A WORLDWIDE DEPRESSION”
On October 21, 2010, Reid, citing various economic policies which he had pushed through the Senate since the financial crisis of 2008, told interviewer Ed Schultz that most voters in his state, because they personally were struggling financially, were unable to appreciate the fact that “[b]ut for me, we’d be in a worldwide depression.”
In July 2012, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans in all income brackets—as opposed to President Obama’s wish to extend those cuts only for households earning $250,000 or less—Reid sidelined a Senate vote on McConnell’s proposal. “It’s the ‘help Paris Hilton’ legislation,” said Reid. “It would give people like her a tax break for doing nothing—$46 billion of the American people’s money to help Paris Hilton and others.”
UNSUBSTANTIATED CHARGES OF TAX EVASION AGAINST MITT ROMNEY
When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was campaigning against incumbent Barack Obama in 2012, Reid claimed, without evidence, that Romney, who had not yet made any of his recent tax returns public, had not paid taxes for 10 years. Reid’s various assertions, some of which were made from the Senate floor, were not always consistent:
* On July 11, Reid said: “We’d like to know what’s in those tax returns that he refuses to show to the American public. Did he pay any taxes?”
* Days later, Reid suggested that Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns would make him ineligible to serve even as dogcatcher.
* On July 31, Reid told the Huffington Post that an investor from Bain Capital, the firm that Romney co-founded in 1984, had called him [Reid] to convey the information about Reid’s tax-evasion. Yet even as Reid made the accusation, he hedged: “He [Romney] didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain. But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”
* On subsequent occasions, Reid combined his tax-evasion charges with a dose of class-warfare rhetoric: “You guys [in the media] have said his [Romney’s] wealth is $250 million. Not a chance in the world. It’s a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don’t pay taxes for 10 years when you’re making millions and millions of dollars.”
* Another time, when speaking via telephone with Nevada reporters, Reid said: “I am not basing this [the charge of Romney’s tax-evasion] on some figment of my imagination. I have had a number of people tell me that.” When the senator was asked to reveal his sources, he declined. “No, that’s the best you’re going to get from me … I don’t think the burden should be on me,” he said. “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn’t he release his tax returns?”
* On August 2, Reid upped the ante again, repeating his accusation on the floor of the Senate. “So, the word’s out that he [Romney] hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t,” Reid contended.
In September 2012 Romney released his 2011 tax returns, which showed that he had paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.69 million in income—most of it from his investments—for an effective rate of 14.1%.
Notably, Senator Reid, whose personal net worth had grown from a middle-class level to more than $10 million during his time in the Senate, refused to make his own tax returns public.
Nearly three years later, in a March 31, 2015 interview, CNN’s Dana Bash interviewed Reid about the false charges he had made, without evidence, against Romney. Reid told her: “I don’t regret that at all. The Koch brothers. No one would help me, they were afraid they’d [the Koch brothers would] go after them. So I did it on my own. That’s what I felt I had to do.” Bash responded: “So no regrets about Mitt Romney, the Koch Brothers? Some people have even called it ‘McCarthyite.'” A smirking Reid, in turn, replied: “Well, they can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?” (Click here for video.)
REID SMEARS BLACK DEMOCRAT WHO OPPOSES HIM REGARDING YUCCA MOUNTAIN NUCLEAR-WASTE SITE
When William Magwood, a black Democratic appointee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, opposed Reid on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste-disposal-site matter, Reid called him a “first-class rat,” a “treacherous, miserable liar,” a “sh** stirrer,” and “one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with.”
GOVERNMENT “SHUTDOWN” of 2013
In October 2013, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to fully fund all government activities and programs except the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), on grounds that the American people—who were required, by the law’s so-called individual mandate, to purchase a government-approved healthcare plan—should have been entitled to the same treatment as the many corporations and labor unions which President Obama had exempted from the employer mandate via one-year waivers. Rejecting the Republican proposal, Obama and Reid shut down 17% of the federal government, thereby causing all non-essential workers to be furloughed.
Republicans in the House subsequently sent Reid 14 separate bills designed to fund—with no strings attached—the departments and activities that had been shut down, but Reid refused to bring any of those bills to a vote. Instead, he demanded that the House send him a “clean” bill that would fund 100% of the government, including Obamacare.
Notably, one of the aforementioned 14 House bills would have provided funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), whose clinical trials on cancer-stricken children had been stalled by the government’s partial shutdown. During a press briefing, CNN’s Dana Bash made reference to these children and asked Reid whether, for the sake of those youngsters’ welfare, he might consider funding the NIH even as the budget dispute dragged on. After Reid danced around the question, Bash asked directly: “But if you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?” Reid replied: “Why, why, why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. For someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing is irresponsible.”
Also at an October press conference, Reid posed the following questions:
* “What right do they [Republicans] have to pick and choose which part of government is going to be funded?”
* “Why would we want to have the House of Representatives, John Boehner, cherry pick what stays open and what should be closed?”
In fact, the U.S. Constitution stipulates that all federal spending must originate in the House of Representatives.
REID’S IMMENSE POLITICAL POWER
According to Nevada political journalist Steve Sebelius:
“You don’t go far in Nevada before you run into Harry Reid, or one of his people, or somebody who he’s helped come along, or someone he’s helping come along. His reach is pretty far…. He’s at the top of the heap…. His people are firmly in control. Who runs is who he wants to run, and who doesn’t run is who he doesn’t want to run. There’s no one on the Republican side with that kind of influence and control.”
REID’S SCANDALS AND QUESTIONABLE DEALS
Over the course of his political career, Harry Reid has been implicated in numerous ethics scandals:
(1) Real Estate Deals
In a 1998 real-estate deal engineered by Jay Brown (a former casino lawyer and a longtime friend of Reid), the senator purchased two undeveloped residential-property lots on Las Vegas’s rapidly growing outskirts for approximately $400,000. Reid bought one of the parcels on his own, and the second one jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap supported by Reid.
- In 2001 Reid sold both of his lots for $400,000 to a limited liability corporation created by Jay Brown, but he never disclosed the sale on his annual public ethics report. Nor did he inform Congress that he held any stake in Brown’s company. As far as Congress knew, Reid was still the owner of the two lots he had purchased three years earlier.
- In 2004 Brown’s company, having negotiated with local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, sold the land to other developers, and Reid personally took $1.1 million of the proceeds—a $700,000 profit on his initial investment.
- Reid falsely reported the transaction to Congress as a personal land sale. When questioned about the deal during a telephone interview with the Associated Press in October 2006, Reid hung up the phone.
(2) Co-Mingling Personal and Political Funds
In 2001 Reid paid cash for a $750,000 condominium at the Washington, DC Ritz-Carlton where he currently resides. When he subsequently (in 2002, 2004, and 2005) gave $3,300 in Christmas bonuses to the doorman and other support staff at his building, Reid, in contravention of federal election law, used money that he had acquired from campaign donations rather than his own separate funds.
Reid’s campaign falsely listed the bonuses as campaign “salary” expenditures for two of the years in question, and as a “contribution” for the other year. When news of Reid’s misappropriation of campaign funds became public in 2006, the senator’s office said that the listing as “salary” had been a “clerical error.” Added Reid: “I am reimbursing the campaign from my own pocket to prevent this issue from being used in the current campaign season to deflect attention from Republican failures.”**
(3) Favors for Wealthy Real-Estate Developers
In a $286 billion federal transportation bill passed by Congress in 2005, Reid secured $300 million in earmarks for projects in his home state, including $18 million to fund the construction of a bridge spanning the Colorado River. On the Arizona side of that bridge, Reid owned 160 acres of undeveloped land (in Bullhead City, AZ) around which many new housing units were being built. The new bridge would cause the value of Reid’s property to skyrocket.
Moreover, the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of that land are noteworthy:
In 2002, Reid paid $10,000 to a pension fund controlled by his longtime friend, Las Vegas lubricants distributor Clair Haycock. That payment earned the senator full control of the 160-acre parcel of land. (According to the Los Angeles Times, $10,000 was only one-tenth of the land’s estimated value — and one-fortieth of what it had sold for ten years earlier. As of 2012, Reid’s financial disclosure form listed the property’s value as somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000.)
Six months after Reid madethis $10,000 payment, he introduced legislation to address the hardships confronting lubricants dealers whose supplies had been disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies—an issue the Haycock family had previously brought to Reid’s attention. As the Los Angeles Times points out: “It is a potential violation of congressional ethics standards for a member to accept anything of value—including a real estate discount—from a person with interests before Congress.”
Reid on several occasions has used legislation to move federal land into private hands, and private land into the public realm—invariably portraying these transactions as efforts to preserve scenic and environmentally sensitive areas while making more land available for urban growth.
Such was the case with the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002—a piece of legislation introduced by Reid—which dealt with a variety of boundary shifts and land trades in Nevada. Reid assured his colleagues that the bill was a bipartisan measure that would benefit both the natural environment and the economy in Nevada.
“What Reid did not explain,” the Los Angeles Times reported, “was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms.”
For example, the Howard Hughes Corporation alone paid $300,000 to the small, Washington-based consulting firm of Reid’s son-in-law, Steven Barringer, to promote a provision allowing Hughes to acquire 998 acres of highly valuable federal land situated in the rapidly growing Las Vegas metropolitan area. In federal lobbyist reports, Barringer is listed as one of Hughes’s representatives on the measure that Reid introduced.
Other provisions of the 2002 bill were intended to benefit (to the tune of several million dollars) a real-estate development headed by Harvey Whittemore, a senior partner in the Nevada law firm that employed all four of Reid’s sons. Specifically, Reid intervened to gain monumental government concessions on behalf of Whittemore, who wished to build thousands of homes and numerous golf courses on 43,000 acres of barren land in an area called Coyote Springs, an hour northeast of Las Vegas.
This land had a number of federal restrictions on its use: Most notably, one-fourth of it was off-limits to developers because of federal protections for an “endangered” species of desert tortoise that dwelt there; another one-fourth (about 10,500 acres) was government-owned and was subject to a federal power-line right of way; and the Coyote Springs territory as a whole was rife with streams and washes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had designated as crucial to the health of the desert’s ecosystem, and was therefore generally off-limits to construction.[
Thanks to Senator Reid’s intercession](http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/007851.php), however, the Bureau of Land Management agreed to relocate the “endangered” tortoises to an adjacent federal preserve, thereby opening that portion of Coyote Springs to developers. Further, Reid inserted some obscure provisions into a land-management bill that relocated the aforementioned power-line right-of-way corridor by moving it (at no cost to Whittemore) off of Whittemore’s property and onto what had theretofore been protected federal wilderness. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Power lines are not permitted on such [federal wilderness] land without congressional approval. In a flurry of technical language, Reid’s land bill changed the classification.”
At first, it seemed that these maneuvers by Reid would free Whittemore to build on the coveted 10,500-acre parcel previously held by Congress. But the Bureau of Land Management and the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee balked at the deal, and Reid backed away temporarily. Less than two years later, Reid tried allow Whittemore to purchase the Coyote Springs for $160,000—far below market value—but Congress again objected. Finally, Reid negotiated an alternate arrangement where Whittemore was permitted to purchase the land at a fair market rate while the government changed the placement of the corridor.
Between 2000 and 2006, Whittemore, his wife, and the Coyote Springs company gave Reid’s senatorial campaign and political action committees at least $45,000. According to the Los Angeles Times: “That included $35,000 for Reid’s leadership PAC, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, which helped him advance as a Senate leader. Most of that money was contributed in 2002 shortly after Reid introduced the Clark County land bill.” In addition, Whittemore gave $5,000 apiece to two of Reid’s sons, to finance their efforts to win local seats on the Henderson City Council and the Clark County Board of Commissioners, respectively. The developer also hired one of those sons as his personal lawyer to represent him in his dealings with federal officials.
Also profiting from the arrangement negotiated by Reid, which freed up tens of thousands of federal acres for development and annexation, were the governments of three large Nevada cities—Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson. All three were represented by Reid’s family members—including his youngest son—who contacted the senator’s staff on behalf of their clients.
In September 2001, Reid, who candidly condoned lobbying by relatives—on the premise that lobbyists’ activities are “very transparent”—sent a letter to his staff explaining that the Senate Ethics Committee had advised him that there was no restriction against a relative lobbying a U.S. senator, and instructing his staff to treat his family members who were lobbyists no better or worse than any other lobbyist. But soon after the Los Angeles Times interviewed him in 2003 about about the lobbying activities his children had conducted during the previous year, Reid did an about-face and decided to ban relatives from lobbying his office. “Sen. Reid has long held that elected leaders must take steps to prevent even the appearance of impropriety,” his chief of staff said in a memo, “and it has become clear this ban is necessary for that reason.”
(4) Influence-Peddling in Exchange for Cash
Between 2001 and 2004, Reid, in apparent violation of Senate ethics provisions, wrote at least four letters pressing the Bush administration to take action on certain issues of importance to Indian tribes that were clients of the notoriously corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who lobbied on behalf of tribes involved in the gambling casino industry. CBS News reports that “starting in the mid-1990s, he [Abramoff] became a master at showering gifts on lawmakers in return for their votes on legislation and tax breaks favorable to his clients.” Eventually Abramoff was convicted in federal court of corrupting public officials, tax evasion, and fraud, and he served three-and-a-half years in prison.
During the 2001-04 period, Abramoff’s staff was in regular contact with Reid’s office. Whenever Reid wrote a letter on behalf of the Indian tribes, he collected donations from Abramoff’s lobbying partners and clients around the same time period. All told, these donations totaled nearly $68,000. An Associated Press report provides the details:
While Abramoff never directly donated to Reid, the lobbyist did instruct one tribe, the Coushattas, to send $5,000 to Reid’s tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, in 2002. About the same time, Reid sent a letter to the Interior Department helpful to the tribe, records show.
Abramoff sent a list to the tribe entitled “Coushatta Requests” recommending donations to campaigns or groups for 50 lawmakers he claimed were helpful to the tribe. Alongside Reid’s name, Abramoff wrote, “5,000 (Searchlight Leadership Fund) Senate Majority Whip.”
Following a pattern seen with Abramoff and Republicans, Abramoff’s Democratic team members often delivered donations to Reid close to key events.
Reid himself, along with his Senate counsel Jim Ryan, met with Abramoff deputy Ronald Platt on June 5, 2001, “to discuss timing on [a] minimum wage bill” that affected the Marianas, according to a bill that Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff’s firm, sent the Marianas. Three weeks before the meeting, Greenberg Traurig’s political action committee donated $1,000 to Reid’s Senate re-election committee. Three weeks after the meeting, Platt himself donated $1,000 to Reid….
The Marianas, U.S. territorial islands in the Pacific Ocean, were one of Abramoff’s highest-paying clients and were trying to keep their textile industry exempt from most U.S. laws on immigration, labor and pay, including the minimum wage. Many Democrats have long accused the islands of running garment sweatshops. The islands in 2001 had their own minimum wage of $3.05 an hour, and were exempt from the U.S. minimum of $5.15.
Republicans were intent on protecting the Marianas’ exemption. Democrats, led by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of California, wanted the Marianas to be covered by the U.S. minimum and crafted a compromise. In February 2001, Kennedy introduced a bill that would have raised the U.S. hourly minimum to $6.65 and would have covered the Marianas….
Within a month, Platt began billing for routine contacts and meetings with Reid’s staff, starting with a March 26, 2001 contact with Reid chief of staff Susan McCue to “discuss timing and status of minimum wage legislation,” the billing records say. In all, Platt and a fellow lobbyist reported 21 contacts in 2001 with Reid’s office, mostly with McCue and Ryan.
One of the Marianas contacts, listed for May 30, 2001, was with Edward Ayoob, Reid’s legislative counsel. Within a year, Ayoob had left Reid’s office to work for Abramoff’s firm, registering specifically to lobby for the islands as well as several tribes….
On March 5, 2002, [Reid] sent a letter to the Interior Department pressing the agency to reject a proposed casino by the Jena band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana…. The Jena’s proposed casino would have rivaled one already in operation in Louisiana run by the Coushattas, and Abramoff was lobbying to block the Jena. The day after Reid’s letter, the Coushattas wrote a $5,000 check to Reid’s Searchlight group at Abramoff’s suggestion….
On Nov. 8, 2002, [Reid] signed a letter with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging Interior Secretary Gale Norton to reject a proposal by the Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians to convert land for a health clinic into a casino in southern California. The casino would have competed with the Palm Springs gambling establishment run by the Agua Caliente, one of Abramoff’s tribes.
Two weeks later, Reid went to the Senate floor to oppose fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s effort to win congressional approval for a Michigan casino for the Bay Mills Indians, which would have rivaled one already operating by the Saginaw Chippewa represented by Abramoff. “The legislation is fundamentally flawed,” Reid argued, successfully leading the opposition to Stabenow’s proposal.The next month, Reid joined six other Democratic senators in asking President Bush in mid-December 2002 to spend an additional $30 million for Indian school construction. Several Abramoff tribes, including the Saginaw and the Mississippi Choctaw, were seeking federal money for school building.Six weeks after that letter, three Abramoff partners—including Platt and Ayoob—donated a total of $4,000 to Reid’s Senate re-election campaign. Later in 2003, the Agua Caliente contributed $13,500 to Reid’s political groups while the Saginaw chipped in $9,000.Reid sent a fourth letter on April 30, 2003, joining Ensign a second time to urge Interior to reject the Jena casino. Two months later, Abramoff’s firm threw a fundraiser for Reid at its Washington office that netted the Nevada senator several more donations from Greenberg Traurig lobbyists and their spouses. Ayoob was instrumental in staging the event, Reid’s office said.
Reid also sponsored a bill to give $100,000 to another tribe represented by Abramoff, because, said the senator, Louisiana lawmakers had sent him a letter requesting it.
(5) Accepting Illegal Gifts
Between 2003-05, Reid accepted free ringside seats for three professional boxing matches—seats worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each—from the Nevada Athletic Commission. This occurred at a time when the Commission was trying to influence the senator on federal regulation of boxing. As the Washington Post explained, Reid had been “pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada’s agency feared might usurp its authority.”
The Senate ethics manual warns against “accepting any gift where it appears that the gift is motivated by a desire to reward, influence, or elicit favorable action.” Reid’s explanation, as the Washington Post paraphrased it, was that he was “simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry.” “Anyone from Nevada would say, ‘I’m glad he is there taking care of the state’s number one businesses,’” Reid said.
(6) Reid’s Energy Stocks
In late 2005, Reid invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in the Dow Jones U.S. Energy Sector Fund, which held shares in several major oil companies. On the day Reid made his initial investment, the Fund closed at $29.15 per share. In August 2008, Reid sold some of his shares, whose value had climbed to $41.82. “Two months later,” reports RealClearPolitics.com, “Reid-supported legislation that would cost oil companies billions in taxes and regulatory fees passed. The Energy Sector Fund’s shares plummeted to $24.41 each.”**
(7) Promoting “Green Energy” to Enrich His Family
In August 2012, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story about how Reid was strong-arming NV Energy, Nevada’s primary electricity provider, to buy more “green energy” from a Chinese solar company named ENN Mojave Energy LLC. This was occurring despite the fact that NV Energy had already exceeded its state-mandated quota for green energy (which generated higher electric bills for customers). “There’s another factor, however,” noted the Review-Journal, “one more personal to Reid: His son, Rory Reid, is one of the attorneys for the ENN Mojave Energy project…. [S]uccess for ENN in finding customers helps Rory Reid, and its failure could cost him a client.”
(8) Quashing a Federal Investigation in Exchange for Money
In January 2013, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a wealthy Utah businessman named Jeremy Johnson was accusing Utah’s recently elected attorney general, John Swallow, of having helped broker a deal in 2010 — when Swallow was Utah’s chief deputy attorney general — in which Johnson “believed he was to pay Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid $600,000 to make a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson’s company go away.” According to the Tribune, Johnson had made an initial payment of $250,000 toward that end. Johnson’s company was called I Works Inc., described by the Tribune as “the center of a host of companies that sells products under hundreds of different names.”
But after Johnson had made the aforementioned $250,000 payment, the federal government nonetheless filed a lawsuit against Johnson on December 21, 2010, alleging that the products sold by I Works Inc. included “make-money schemes,” “stay-healthy programs,” and information about government and private grants that supposedly could be used to pay off personal debts. Said the Tribune:
“After hundreds of thousands of customers sought refunds from credit card companies, claiming they were charged for unauthorized purchases, Visa and MasterCard fined I Works and the other companies and terminated many of their accounts, the complaint says. Johnson and others then created dozens of ‘shell’ companies to accept credit card payments in order to avoid fines and detection, it says.”
Johnson, who had been under the impression that his $250,000 down-payment was to have served as insurance against such a lawsuit, demanded that Swallow return some of that money to him. Johnson also said he was unsure if any of the money he had paid in the deal actually reached anyone connected to Senator Reid.
The Tribune provides additional key details about this scandal:
To back his allegations, Johnson provided an email from Swallow that Johnson identified as key in supporting his claims. Johnson also granted access to at least several dozen other emails, two financial records, several photos, and a transcript of about 60 pages of a secretly recorded April 2012 meeting Johnson had with Swallow…. The documents appear to support Johnson’s story that in 2010 Swallow brokered a deal between Johnson and Richard M. Rawle, owner of the Provo-based payday-loan company Check City, to enlist Rawle to use his influence to get Reid involved on behalf of Johnson and I Works…. Johnson said Swallow suggested Reid could make problems with regulators go away — for a price.
“I said, ‘OK, what do I need to do?’ He’s like, ‘OK, it costs money,’ ” Johnson said, who claimed Swallow was adamant he make a deal.
“I think he told me, ‘Richard Rawle has a connection with Harry Reid,’ ” Johnson said.
He said Swallow at first wanted $2 million to enlist Reid’s help. But I Works was no longer profitable and he did not have the money, Johnson said, so they eventually agreed on $300,000 upfront and $300,000 later.
Swallow put Johnson in contact with Rawle, whose company has operations in Nevada. Rawle … had contributed to Reid’s 2010 re-election bid and later bragged to Johnson that the Nevada Democrat helped him delay new federal payday-loan regulations, Johnson said.
On Sept. 29, 2010, Swallow sent an email to Johnson with the subject line “Mtg. with Harry Reid’s contact.” [Said the email:] “Richard [Rawle] is traveling to LV tomorrow and will be able to contact this person, who he has a very good relationship with. He needs a brief narrative of what is going on and what you want to happen. I don’t know the cost, but it probably won’t be cheap.”
On Oct. 7, Johnson emailed Rawle, insisting there was “rock solid proof” the FTC allegations against I Works were false. “We will do whatever it take[s] to get Senator Reid on our side and hopefully you can help make it happen. Let me know.”
They arranged an Oct. 9 meeting at Check City’s Provo headquarters. Johnson said he, Swallow and Rawle attended, along with at least two other people.
Five days later, on Oct. 14, Rawle registered a new company called RMR Consulting LLC with the state, Department of Commerce records show. On Nov. 2, an official with a Check City-related company called Softwise Inc. emailed Johnson, with a copy to Rawle: “We wanted to let you know that we have our people in Washington D.C. currently working with the FTC on your case. Also, the initial retainer of $50,000 can now be wired to RMR Consulting, LLC.” The writer provided an account number at Bonneville Bank.
A copy of I Works’ general ledger that same day shows $50,000 was paid to RMR Consulting for “legal fees.” Another $200,015 was paid Dec. 2.
But less than three weeks later, on Dec. 21, 2010, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Johnson, I Works and others in federal court in Las Vegas. The suit alleges illegal marketing and billing practices for online sales of kits and access to websites with information about such things as obtaining government grants for personal expenses and making money online. It also alleges Johnson created a number of shell companies whose connections to I Works were hidden so they could continue to bill customers after Visa and Mastercard threatened to cut him off because a large number of cardholders had reversed charges.
Johnson said he called Swallow and asked him why the lawsuit was filed after he had paid for it to go away. According to Johnson, Swallow told him it was because Johnson hadn’t paid the second $300,000 they had agreed on and that Reid believed he had the money….
Because the money he paid had done nothing for him and I Works, Johnson began a months-long effort to pressure Swallow and Rawle into returning at least some of the money, which Johnson had borrowed from a friend who also was an I Works executive.
In June 2011, Johnson was charged with a single criminal count of mail fraud and was arrested at the Phoenix airport while waiting to board a plane for Costa Rica, where he hoped to start a helicopter tourism business after I Works had been taken over by a court-appointed receiver and his assets were frozen. Johnson spent 96 days in jail until federal prosecutors relented and a judge granted bail of $2.8 million….
Just after Johnson’s release, and with Swallow a candidate for attorney general, Johnson said Swallow and his campaign consultant, Jason Powers, met him at a St. George hotel, where Johnson said he again pressured Swallow to come up with the money.
In 2013, Johnson said: “The truth is the worst thing I think I’ve done was I paid money knowing it was going to influence Harry Reid. So I’ve felt all along that I’ve committed bribery of some sort there.”
(9) Reid’s Donor & Lobbyist Friend Goes to Prison
In September 2013, Harry Reid’s close friend and donor, the powerful multimillionaire lobbyist Harvey Whittemore—whom Reid assisted in the aforementioned Coyote Springs matter—was sentenced to two years in prison for having funneled more than $130,000 in illegal campaign funds to Senator Reid’s re-election committee in 2007. Convicted of three felonies, Whittemore was also fined $100,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
(10) Expediting Visa Applications for Foreign Investors
In January 2014, the nonpartisan government-accountability organization Cause of Action filed an ethics complaint accusing Reid of violating the Senate’s Code of Official Conduct by using his influence to help the politically connected, Las Vegas-based SLS Hotel & Casino—where the senator’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm were legal counsel—get visas for approximately two-dozen Asian investors who were willing to help the hotel fund a major renovation project. Without the visa approvals, the investors would not be permitted to bring their money into the U.S.
Initially, in December 2012, career officials inside the Department of Homeland Security had ruled—in what is normally a non-appealable visa decision—that the SLS Hotel request failed to meet the criteria for expedited review. That prompted Reid to personally reach out to Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, the top official at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to intervene. According to the Washington Times:
“The intervention from Mr. Reid’s staff was so intense at one point a year ago that a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official reported that it prompted a phone shouting match…. Within a few short weeks of Mr. Reid’s personal intervention, the decision not to expedite the visas was reversed.”
(11) Purchasing Expensive Gifts with Campaign Money
In March 2014, it was reported that during the previous two years Reid’s political organization had paid Ryan Elisabeth Reid—the senator’s 23-year-old granddaughter who ran a jewelry and gift business—more than $31,000 ($14,481 in 2012 and $16,786 in 2013) for “holiday gifts” to be given to supporters and staff. This was almost 7 times more than the combined total that Reid spent on donor gifts from all other vendors.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations permit only the purchase of gifts of “nominal value” for occasions such as holidays, graduations, or weddings. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Reid said the payments complied with federal law and [FEC] rulings that campaign finance experts say allow the purchase of goods from relatives if they meet a fair market value test. But the potential appearance that Reid could be using funds from political donors to enrich a family member prompted a decision [by Reid] to reimburse the campaign.”
REID ON TAXES
During an October 24, 2013 interview with Nevada Public Radio, Reid said: “The only people who feel there shouldn’t be more coming in to the federal government from the rich people are the Republicans in the Congress. Everybody else, including the rich people, are willing to pay more. They want to pay more.”
REID USES THE “NUCLEAR OPTION” TO CHANGE SENATE FILIBUSTER RULES
In 2004, when then-Senate-minority Democrats were repeatedly filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, Harry Reid said the following: “The filibuster is not a scheme, and it certainly isn’t new. The filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It’s part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate.”
Republicans, at that time, were threatening to invoke the so-called “nuclear option“—the term for a monumentally dramatic change to the rules governing the confirmation of executive and judicial nominees. Traditionally, 60 Senate votes had been required to block the minority party’s ability to filibuster the confirmation of nominees it disapproved of. If the nuclear option were to be enacted, only a simple majority would be needed to confirm all nominees other than Supreme Court Justices (for whom the 60-vote standard remained in effect). This would significantly diminish the power of the minority party, and would give the President virtually unchecked authority to appoint whomever he wished to various political and judicial posts. In April of that year, Reid argued passionately against such a possibility:
“They [Senate Republicans] are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right.”
A month afterward, Reid remained just as adamant: “To change the rules in the Senate can’t be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes.”
Ultimately, the Republicans never did invoke the nuclear option. A few years later, in 2008, Reid—whose Democratic Party now controlled the Senate—was asked whether he himself might ever consider using that option. “As long as I’m the leader, the answer is no” he replied.
But five years after that, in July 2013, Reid indicated that was indeed prepared to exercise the nuclear option to derail Republican filibusters of executive-branch nominees—but not judicial nominees. “We’re not talking about changing the filibuster rules that relates to nominations for judges,” he assured. Republicans, in response, allowed the executive-branch nominees to sail through the Senate confirmation process unopposed. But this concession only emboldened Reid.
During the summer and fall of 2013, Reid grew particularly resentful regarding Republican filibusters of three of President Obama’s nominees to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals—namely Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Wilkins. Condemning such “gridlock” as counterproductive to good governance, Reid went to the Senate floor and declared: “The need for change is so very, very obvious. It’s clearly visible. It’s manifest we have to do something to change things…. It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”
Reid said these things even though just two weeks earlier, President Obama, at a Texas fundraiser, had bragged about the great progress he had been able to achieve in “remaking the courts”:
“In addition to the Supreme Court, we’ve been able to nominate and confirm judges of extraordinary quality all across the country on federal benches. We’re actually, when it comes to the district court, matching the pace of previous presidents. When it comes to the appellate court, we’re just a little bit behind, and we’re just going to keep on focused on it.”
On November 21, 2013, Reid called for a Senate vote on the nuclear option. Fifty-two senators—all Democrats and Independents—voted in favor of the rules change, which thus became the new Senate policy. Three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
Soon thereafter, Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Wilkins were all confirmed (by the Senate) to seats on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
For additional information on Reid’s use of the nuclear option, click here.
REID CELEBRATES CBO REPORT INDICATING THAT OBAMACARE WILL RESULT IN 2.3 MILLION LOST JOBS
On February 4, 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report indicating that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would result in a net loss of some 2.3 million jobs nationwide within seven years. The report said that because Obamacare gives substantial subsidies to people below certain income thresholds—subsidies funded by all the people above those thresholds—many Americans would elect to work less, or to not work at all, in order to limit their incomes and thus continue to have their healthcare subsidized. The Washington Post explained:
“After obtaining coverage under the health-care law, some workers will choose to forgo employment, the [CBO] report said, while others will voluntarily reduce their hours. That is because insurance subsidies under the law become less generous as income rises, so workers will have less incentive to work more or at all.”
Reid cast the CBO report in a positive light, telling reporters:
“We have the CBO report, which rightfully says, that people shouldn’t have job lock. If they—we live in a country where there should be free agency. People can do what they want. And what they’re saying here is … [Obamacare] allows people to get out of a job they’re locked into, because of—they have healthcare in their job.”
REID SAYS HORROR STORIES ABOUT OBAMACARE ARE LIES; SMEARS THE KOCH BROTHERS
On February 26, 2014, Reid addressed the many news reports that had indicated, in recent months, that because of Obamacare many people had lost their previous insurance coverage, had lost access to the doctors they wanted, were burdened by much higher premiums and deductibles than ever before, and were unable to get the medical care they needed. Said Reid: “[T]here’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.” Those lies, he charged, were “being paid for” by “two billionaire brothers” who happened to be “oil magnates” — a reference to David Koch and Charles Koch, major funders of conservative causes.
Just hours later, after several Senate Republicans had mocked Reid’s assertion that criticisms of Obamacare were based on lies, Reid returned to the Senate floor to temper his earlier statement. “I can’t say that every one of the Koch brothers’ ads are a lie, but I’ll say this … the vast, vast majority of them are,” Reid declared.
That same day, in reaction to anti-Obamacare ads produced by an organization funded by the noted conservative philanthropists Charles and David Koch, Reid said of the Koch brothers: “It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone I can imagine.”
REID SAYS, “THE BORDER IS SECURE”
As of July 2014, nearly 60,000 illegal-immigrant minors — mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and mostly unaccompanied by parents or guardians — had crossed the border into the southern U.S. since October 2013, creating a massive humanitarian crisis. Government officials estimated that by the end of 2014, the figure would exceed 90,000, and that in 2015 it would top 140,000 — not including the many tens of thousands more who could be expected to avoid detection altogether. Nonetheless, Reid told reporters on July 15, 2014: “The border is secure. [Senator] Martin Heinrich talked to the caucus today. He’s a border state senator. He said he can saywithout any equivocation the border is secure.” “Remember,” Reid added, “had we done comprehensive immigration reform, we wouldn’t be having this issue.”
RACIALLY TINGED REMARKS ABOUT ASIANS
At an Asian Chamber of Commerce gathering in Las Vegas on August 21, 2014, Reid stated: “The Asian population is so productive. I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.” After an attendee was introduced to the podium, Reid said: “One problem I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.” In a statement subsequently provided by his office, Reid said: “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”
REID’S BODYGUARD ROUGHS UP REPORTER
In October 2014, conservative author Jason Mattera caught up with Reid (who was walking down a hallway in the Capitol Building with several other men) and asked the senator, “How did you become so rich working in government?” When Reid continued walking and did not reply, Mattera followed up with: “How does someone on a government salary most of their career accumulate your type of wealth?” Reid again remained silent and kept walking. Then, one of the senator’s bodyguards suddenly asked Mattera, “Are you press?” before shoving him and then pinning him against a wall. After Mattera affirmatively identified himself as a member of the press, the bodyguard retorted, “I don’t care if you’re press or not.” When Mattera asked the bodyguard what his name was, the man refused to reply. (Click here for video.)
HUNDREDS OF HOUSE BILLS BLOCKED BY REID
During 2013-14, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed 387 pieces of legislation — more than 40 of which were designed to create jobs and grow the economy — that Reid either ignored or blocked from coming to a vote in the Democrat-led Senate, thereby preventing them from ever reaching President Obama’s desk. By contrast, only 63 Senate bills were not considered by the House. As Grover Norquist observed in U.S. News & World Report: “If gridlock does exist in Congress, it is a mostly one-way street with barriers erected at the doors of the Senate.”
REID LOSES MAJORITY LEADER STATUS
In the midterm elections of November 2014, Republicans won numerous key Senate seats and regained control of the upper chamber of Congress. Thus Reid lost his standing as Senate Majority Leader.
REID SAYS HE WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION
On March 27, 2015, Reid announced that he would not seek re-election in 2016 and would retire from politics. “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” he said, using a sports metaphor. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”
Reid died on December 28, 2021 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
VOTING RECORD AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
For an overview of Reid’s voting record on a range of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Harry Reid, click here.