Sen. Jack Reed (D)
Elected: 1996, term expires 2014, 3rd term.
Born: Nov. 12, 1949, Providence .
Education: U.S. Military Acad., West Point, B.S. 1971, Harvard U., M.P.P. 1973, J.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Julia Hart); 1 child.
Military career: Army, 1967–79; Army Reserves, 1979-91.
Elected office: RI Senate, 1984–90; U.S. House of Reps., 1990–96.
Professional Career: Assoc. prof., U.S. Military Acad. at West Point, 1978–79; Practicing atty., 1982–90.
Jack Reed, Rhode Island’s senior senator, was elected to the House in 1990 and the Senate in 1996. He grew up in working-class Cranston, the second of three children of a school custodian and a housewife. Disappointed that she never got to go to college, Mary Reed prepared her children for success in school. She insisted on music and art classes for young Jack, beginning at age 5. But her son was fascinated by history and World War II as a child, and eventually decided he wanted to go to the U.S. Military Academy. At LaSalle Academy, a Catholic prep school in Providence, he played football, though he was small for the sport. He also ran track, was elected to the student council, and worked on the school newspaper. Reed was accepted at West Point, and then went on to serve in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper. He racked up other sterling academic credentials, including a master’s degree from Harvard University’s prestigious John F. Kennedy School of Government and a degree from Harvard Law School. Throughout his life, Reed has kept a spot in his heart for West Point. He taught there briefly in the late 1970s, serves on the academy’s governing board and chose it as the site of his marriage to Julia Hart in April 2005.
|Jack Reed (D)||320,644||(73%)||($2,258,706)|
|Robert Tingle (R)||116,174||(27%)|
|Jack Reed (D)||48,038||(87%)|
|Christopher Young (D)||7,277||(13%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2002 (78%), 1996 (63%), 1994 House (68%), 1992 House (71%), 1990 House (59%)
In 1984, at age 35, Reed won public office for the first time, beating an incumbent in the primary for the state Senate, where he served six years. When Republican Claudine Schneider left the U.S. House to run against Sen. Claiborne Pell in 1990, Reed ran for her seat, overcoming several better-known candidates in the primary and winning the general election with 59%.
In 1995, when Pell announced his retirement after 36 years, Reed was ready to run for the Senate. He was easily nominated, and faced GOP state Treasurer Nancy Mayer in the general election. National Republicans spent nearly $1 million on ads attacking Reed as a liberal for opposing “workfare” and for supporting labor unions; these tactics did not hurt him in liberal, heavily unionized Rhode Island, and perhaps even helped him. Mayer spent $773,000; Reed, $2.7 million. His biography was his message: Reed launched his campaign in a public school conference room named for his late father, he stressed his bootstraps rise from a working-class background, and he called for education spending to help others, he said, experience the same success. That message and his pleasant, unassuming demeanor evidently touched a chord. Reed won 63%-35%.
Reed arrived as one of the few senators of his generation with military experience, and today he is one of the most respected authorities on defense and foreign affairs in Congress, though he is among the least well known of senators. Reed accompanied Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on his 2008 trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama considered him a potential running mate until Reed ruled himself out. Reed remained on the short list of possible Defense secretaries in an Obama administration until Secretary Robert Gates agreed to stay on. Reed has served on the Armed Services Committee since January 1999, and he got a waiver from the Democratic leadership to remain on the panel after securing a seat on another top committee, Appropriations, in 2007.
Reed supported Democratic President Clinton’s bombing strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, but four years later, he was a staunch opponent of Republican President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, joining the dozen Senate Democrats to vote against the 2002 war resolution. He later was one of the first prominent members of Congress to call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his handling of the conflict. Reed felt that Rumsfeld grossly underestimated the strength of anti-American insurgents in Iraq and failed to send in adequate troops and equipment. Reed has traveled to the region a dozen times, often straying from the safe zones to talk with officers and soldiers on the front lines. In 2005, after his fifth trip to Iraq, he said: “My job is to be critical about what’s going on and what needs to be improved. I think my criticism has been accurate, certainly in the operations in this region, in that we didn’t organize ourselves for the appropriate occupation and stabilization” after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
In March 2006, Reed said it was time to “redeploy our forces as quickly as possible” to other parts of the Middle East. That year, he and Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin sponsored a bill calling for a “phased redeployment” in six months, with no deadline for complete withdrawal; it also called for U.S. forces to transition to training Iraqi security forces. The Levin-Reed amendment lost 60-39. A more extreme alternative, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry’s amendment calling for withdrawal by June 2007, was defeated 86-13. In summer 2006, Reed said that Iraq had deteriorated into a “low-grade civil war,” but pointed to gains in training Iraqis. In December 2006, he said the Iraq Study Group’s report “may be the last chance to get it right” and noted that its recommendations were “strikingly similar” to the Levin-Reed amendment.
In September 2007, in giving the Democratic response to Bush’s address to the nation on the success of the troop surge in Iraq, Reed criticized the adverse impact on the pursuit of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. “Democrats and Republicans in Congress and throughout the nation cannot and must not stand idly by while our interests throughout the world are undermined and our armed forces are stretched toward the breaking point.” It was time, he added, to “redefine our mission in Iraq.” With Levin, he continued to push for alternatives that would leave only a residual force in Iraq for counter-terrorism, protection of U.S. personnel, and logistics support for Iraqi security forces. But most Republicans were opposed, and Reed failed to gain the 60 votes required to force a final vote.
Reed has been out front in the bipartisan effort to permanently increase the size of the Army. In October 2003, the Senate voted 52-45 for his amendment to add 10,000 troops, but it was dropped in conference with the House. The following year, he and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, called for an increase of 30,000 troops, and the Senate agreed to 20,000. In 2006, Reed worked with the GOP leadership to add $3.7 billion for more soldiers and marines in the budget, and sponsored an amendment to add $10 billion to replace damaged or destroyed equipment. His 2006 amendment to repeal the extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts and use the increased revenue for military equipment was defeated 53-44.
On most issues, Reed has a solidly liberal voting record. He has championed the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program popular with members of Congress from the Northeast. He called the Senate’s action in November 2005 classifying LIHEAP funding as emergency spending a “terrible precedent,” and sponsored an amendment to more than double spending from $2 billion to $5 billion. Reed fought Bush administration efforts to partially privatize Social Security, and he was the lead opponent of a bill to prevent victims from suing to hold gun manufacturers liable for crimes committed with their products. Reed voted against confirming conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. In 2008, during debate on legislation to address the financial crisis in the housing market, Reed pushed for expanding the affordable housing fund and said that federal regulators had been “too complacent” in overseeing the financial derivatives market.
An important issue for Reed back home is the immigration status of an estimated 10,000 Liberian refugees of civil war who have settled in Rhode Island. Reed favors giving them permanent immigrant status. He got such a provision into the immigration bill that passed the Senate in May 2006, but the measure died in the House. He has sponsored an annual bill allowing the Liberians to stay temporarily.
In Rhode Island politics, Reed has always been his own man, unentangled with local Democratic Party affairs. He was easily re-elected in 2002, getting 78% of the vote against a Foxwoods Resort Casino manager, who got just 22%. His 2008 election for a third term was never in doubt. This is a Senate seat whose members have had long tenures. Theodore Green, elected at age 69, served 24 years; Claiborne Pell, elected at 41, served 36 years. Reed was elected just before turning 47. For most of his life, Reed was a bachelor. He met Hart on a trip to Afghanistan, which she helped arrange as the Senate’s coordinator of overseas travel. They married when Reed was 55, and Hart, considerably younger at 39, gave birth to a daughter, Emily, in January 2007.