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Sen. Harry Reid (D)

Nevada

Leadership: Minority Leader & Democratic Conference Chairman

N/A

reid.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 1986, term expires 2016, 5th term.

Born: December 2, 1939, Searchlight

Home: Searchlight

Education: S. UT St. Col., A.S. 1959, UT St. U., B.S. 1961, George Washington U., J.D. 1964, U. of NV, 1969-70

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1969–82; Henderson City atty., 1964–66; Chmn., NV Gaming Comm., 1977–81.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Mormon

Family: married (Landra) , 5 children

Democrat Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior senator, is the minority leader and one of Washington’s most accomplished deal-makers, with a record of legislative successes that reflects a mastery of Senate procedure and the psychology of his colleagues. At the same time, his lack of political polish and occasionally brusque manner have incensed Republicans and contributed to some of his torturous reelection races.

Reid began the 114th Congress (2015-16) diminished both by the Democrats' November electoral wipeout as well as by a nasty fall that broke six of his ribs and badly damaged his right eye. But he remained firmly in control of his caucus -- reportedly making as many as 50 phone calls a day to assert his influence -- and sought to diminish any speculation that he might retire in 2017. “At this stage, I’m fully intending to run,” he told reporters in January. In 2014, he even sold his longtime house in Searchlight, in the scorching desert south of Las Vegas, and moved to Las Vegas to be closer to his political operation. “He’s one tough S.O.B.,” his former spokesman Jim Manley told MSNBC. “I can’t tell you how much he looks forward to having another close race where people are going to be betting heavily against him.”

Reid was first elected to the Senate in 1986, and before that served two terms in the U.S. House. Reid grew up in Searchlight, enduring a hard life. His father, a hard-rock miner, was an alcoholic who killed himself at age 58. His mother did laundry for a nearby bordello to keep the family afloat. Reid grew up in a small house without indoor plumbing, and hitchhiked 40 miles to high school in Henderson, where his civics teacher and boxing coach, Mike O’Callaghan, became his political mentor. As a young man, Reid was a middleweight boxer of some local renown, but he aspired to better himself through education. Henderson businessmen helped him pay for college, and he graduated from Southern Utah State, where he and his wife became Mormons. To put himself through law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he worked nights as a Capitol Police officer. He likes to say, “I would rather dance than fight, but I know how to fight.” He returned to Henderson to practice law.

At age 28, Reid was elected to the Nevada Assembly. In 1970, his mentor O’Callaghan was elected governor and Reid, running separately, was elected lieutenant governor. In 1974, Reid came within 624 votes of beating Republican Paul Laxalt in the race for senator, and two years later, he ran for mayor of Las Vegas and lost that election, too. O’Callaghan named him to head the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, a sensitive post overseeing the state’s top industry at a time when it was controlled by organized crime. Reid later recounted that his life was threatened and his car wired with a bomb.

In 1982, when Nevada got two U.S. House seats for the first time and Rep. Jim Santini ran for the Senate, Reid ran in the Las Vegas-based 1st District and won. As Reid was completing his second term in the House, Laxalt retired and Reid tried again for the Senate seat. His opponent turned out to be Santini, who had switched parties at the last minute and ran as a Republican. Reid won 50%-45%.

Over the years, Reid has had a more moderate voting record than many Senate Democrats. He voted against resolutions endorsing Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, and he co-sponsored the constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning. Reid was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote for the Persian Gulf War resolution in 1991, and he voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002. He has consistently opposed environmental groups on mining issues and blocked attempts to impose higher fees on hard-rock mining. He has opposed most gun control measures, though he supported a failed attempt to ban assault weapons in April 2013 because, he said, “saving the lives of young police officers and innocent civilians is more important than preventing imagined tyranny.” Reid has steered counter-terrorism money to Nevada and has worked to transform the old Nevada nuclear test site, with its hundreds of underground tunnels, into a $250 million center for training first responders to confront acts of terrorism. He has been a strong supporter of the gambling industry.

For two decades, a major issue in Nevada has been the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. In the late 1980s, the federal government named the site as the top candidate for a permanent repository for waste from nuclear reactors that had been piling up at temporary sites in 39 states. Reid has opposed the repository with every parliamentary and political tool at his command while senators from states with temporary sites have pressed hard for it. Bill Clinton carried Nevada by narrow margins in 1992 and 1996 largely because he promised to veto the establishment of even a temporary site at Yucca Mountain. Reid’s task was to assemble sufficient votes to prevent an override of Clinton’s veto, which he did consistently through 2000.

In 2002, President George W. Bush designated Yucca Mountain as the permanent site. The law provided for a veto by the governor, which could be overridden by majorities in both chambers of Congress. In April 2002, Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn issued his veto. Reid tried, but failed, later that year to defeat the bill approving the site. But for Reid, the fight was not over. Lawsuits were filed against the plan, and as the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Energy Department, he was able to block funding for the repository year after year. In November 2004, Reid, by then the Senate minority leader, negotiated with the Bush administration over judicial appointments and agreed to approve 175 Bush nominees in return for the appointment of his aide, Gregory Jaczko, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which had to approve the site before it could go forward. He pushed to move up Nevada’s presidential primary to January 2008, a move that ended up forcing candidates to take an early stand on waste storage. Then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama obliged by opposing the Yucca Mountain site and, after taking office, put the repository on hold.

Reid’s rise to leader was set in motion when he won the post of minority whip in 1998. For the next six years, he was a constant presence on the floor, advancing his party’s causes and maintaining civil relations with GOP leaders. He played a key role in persuading Vermont’s Sen. Jim Jeffords to leave the Republican Party in May 2001 and become an independent who caucused with the Democrats; the move effectively put the Democrats in the majority. When Republicans held all-night sessions in November 2003 to protest Democratic filibusters of nominees for appellate court judgeships, Reid retaliated by speaking for nine hours, reading from his book about his upbringing in Searchlight. Later, in May 2005, he acquiesced to the agreement of the bipartisan “Gang of 14” to allow some of the nominees to come to a vote.

In 2004, he campaigned for fellow Democrats and contributed generously to their political treasuries. When Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost his seat in a stunning upset that year, Reid had already lined up the votes he needed to be elected minority leader. (Republicans were back in control of the majority.) Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut was interested in the post but declined to run. Reid was not the Senate’s best orator and not much of a policy visionary, but his colleagues knew him as a crafty parliamentarian who would be a scrappy and effective defender of their interests.

Reid worked deftly behind the scenes, giving up his committee seats to accommodate other Democrats and pledging to rely on committee chairmen on policy. He blocked non-germane amendments from bills, and he bottled up portions of the Bush agenda that Democrats strongly opposed, such as individual retirement accounts in Social Security. But Reid sometimes undercut himself as a leader by resorting to indecorous comments or insults. He once called Bush a “loser” and a “liar,” and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan “a political hack.” He was quoted in a book on the 2008 presidential race as saying he believed Obama could win because he was a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Reid acknowledged making the remarks and apologized to Obama.

He also has been vulnerable on the ethics front, although he has maintained that none of the issues raised against him over the years have had merit. After a 2003 Los Angeles Times story pointed out that his son and a son-in-law were lobbying in Washington for Nevada companies, Reid banned relatives from lobbying his office. In October 2006, it was reported that Reid had not disclosed a transaction on a land deal that netted him more than $1 million in 2004. Reid said that he had purchased the land in 1998 at market price, and then sold it to a friend’s corporation in 2001 in return for a stake in the corporation. He got his share of the proceeds in 2004, he said, when the property was sold to a shopping center developer. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April 2013 that two partners at a Las Vegas law firm made $150,000 in contributions to a super PAC associated with Reid as he considered a member of the firm for a federal judgeship.

In 2006, Democrats won the six seats they needed to regain the Senate majority and Reid ascended to majority leader. After the election, Reid deftly juggled committee and leadership posts, giving Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman, whose vote would be crucial to keeping the majority, the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, even though he had been reelected as an independent. On other issues, Reid was often stymied by the Senate Republicans’ constant resort to filibusters. His efforts to place limitations on Bush’s handling of the Iraq war mostly fell short of the 60 votes required to shut off debate. And there seemed to be no preventing conservative Oklahoman Tom Coburn from blocking even seemingly acceptable bills from the Senate floor. The contrast to the more lockstep House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was a source of some embarrassment for Senate Democrats.

Despite these setbacks, the electoral success of Senate candidates in 2006 and 2008 engendered enormous goodwill for Reid. With a Democratic majority in Congress, and the election of a Democratic president in 2008, he slipped into the role most comfortable for him, that of behind-the-scenes deal-maker. Reid won bipartisan support for tough, new ethics and lobbying rules and expansion of the student loan program. In early 2009, he guided the new administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill to passage. (The bill happened to include funding for a high-speed bullet train between Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif., that Reid has championed.) When the $700 billion bailout for the financial industry was in trouble in the House, Reid made several changes to the Senate bill to attract additional votes, including a tweak to the tax code to protect middle-income taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax. That and other modifications were popular with lawmakers in both parties in the House, and the bill ultimately passed.

The downside for Reid of Obama’s rise to power was the expectation that he would carry water for the new administration even when its policies hurt him politically in his marginal state. The president’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care delivery system drove the point home like no other. When the responsible Senate committees could not come up with a bill that could attract the requisite 60 votes to deter a Republican filibuster by late in 2009, Reid had to take over or be blamed for Obama’s centerpiece domestic initiative dying on his watch. (The House had already passed a health care bill.) Reid had to navigate the bill around obstacles from the most liberal and most conservative members of his caucus while being unable to count on a single vote from the Senate’s 40 Republicans. That meant he needed all 60 Democrats, including two independents who caucused with the Democrats, to pass the bill. In one instance, he agreed to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson’s insistence that the legislation bar any form of federal support for abortions, a concession that riled liberals. Just before the year ended, Reid was able to pass a health care bill, a great victory for him on the national stage, but a handicap for him at home, where the legislation was unpopular.

In the 112th Congress (2011-12), Reid sought to show that the Senate could be a productive counterweight to the more unruly Republican-controlled House. He got through a bipartisan five-year farm bill as well as aid for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, both of which eluded House GOP leaders. He also was able to thwart GOP attempts to bypass an administration review of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and to block a federal rule speeding up union elections. He repeatedly used parliamentary maneuvers to prevent Republicans from offering amendments to legislation that could jeopardize support for the broader bill.

But later, during negotiations with Republicans over an extension of the federal debt limit and a tax and spending bill to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the White House took the lead, which irked Senate committee chairmen, who were forced to defend the results back home. Meanwhile, Reid’s testiness surfaced in his dealing with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, whom he likened to a dictator. “I don’t understand his brain,” Reid said during a December 2012 impasse in the fiscal cliff talks. At a subsequent meeting outside the Oval Office, Boehner snapped to Reid, “Go f--- yourself.” Meanwhile, Senate Republicans simply refused to allow numerous bills to be brought up for a vote, fueling charges that the Senate was dysfunctional, assessments that reflected poorly on Reid.

The Senate leader also occasionally found himself at odds with his new GOP Senate colleague from Nevada, Republican Dean Heller, whom he blamed in 2012 for failing to entice a sufficient number of Republicans to back a bill legalizing online poker. And though Reid’s turnout operation helped Obama win Nevada that November, he appeared to be trying a little too hard to help the president when he accused GOP nominee Mitt Romney of having paid no federal income taxes for 10 years. The senator claimed his information was based on an investor at Romney’s former investment firm, Bain Capital, whom he refused to identify. A Romney spokesman called the charge “baseless,” while Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus labeled Reid “a dirty liar.”

In early 2013, Reid gave committee chairs a freer hand in developing legislation, enabling Budget’s Patty Murray of Washington to draft a fiscal 2014 budget proposal and Judiciary’s Patrick Leahy of Vermont to come up with legislative proposals on gun control. He also let his close ally in the Democratic leadership, New York’s Chuck Schumer, shepherd a bipartisan proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. (Schumer has said that the two men talk as often as 15 times each day.) But Reid drew the line at an effort to dramatically overhaul the use of filibusters pushed by several of his younger Democratic colleagues. He endorsed a more modest compromise that kept in place the controversial 60-vote threshold for filibusters. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House,” Reid said.

Nevada voters are oddly unforgiving when it comes to Reid, who became the state’s longest-serving member of Congress in January 2013. “Reid is tough and a backroom politician, which is why a lot of people don’t like him,” said Eric Herzik, a University of Nevada-Reno political scientist. “They call him ‘Slick Harry’ or ‘Dirty Harry.’ But at the end of the day, they may acknowledge that it might actually benefit Nevada.” An October 2012 Public Policy Polling survey was a fairly typical reflection of how Nevadans view Reid: It found that 44% approved of the job he’s doing and 51% disapproved.

Reid has faced two serious challenges to his Senate seat. The first was in 1998, when Republican Rep. John Ensign ran a well-financed campaign against him. Both Reid and Ensign, whose stepfather was head of the Mandalay Resort Group, one of the big Las Vegas casinos, raised large amounts of money from the gambling industry. Reid spent $4.9 million and Ensign $3.5 million. After a nasty campaign, Reid prevailed by just 428 votes. Two years later, Ensign was elected to Nevada’s other Senate seat. Despite the bitterness of the 1998 campaign, Reid and Ensign worked together on many home-state projects and refrained from public criticism of each other, even when a messy extramarital affair and related ethics issues ended Ensign’s Senate career in 2011.

Then in the 2010 election, Republicans set out to topple Reid in the same way that Daschle was defeated in 2004 at the pinnacle of his power. He started the race with polls showing him trailing would-be GOP challengers. Yet Republicans had their own problems, including a crowded primary field. Casino executive and former state Sen. Sue Lowden was the putative front-runner, but she committed a series of embarrassing gaffes, including suggesting that people could use chickens as barter to pay their medical bills. She lost to Sharron Angle, a former state Assembly member who drew spirited tea party support.

The result gave Reid an advantageous matchup. Lowden had been considered the much stronger general election adversary. He wasted no time in attacking Angle as someone far outside the political mainstream. At times, the Reid campaign didn’t have to do a thing to raise negative impressions of Angle; she did it on her own. At a political rally in October, she appeared to agree with a spectator that Dearborn, Mich., had been taken over by its large Arab and Muslim population. “It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States,” Angle said. Over the summer, Reid opened up a lead in the polls that was outside the statistical margin of error. But Angle fought back, keeping the race close. She took advantage of widespread anti-government sentiment to outline her conservative philosophy, which called for Washington to be limited to only those powers expressly enumerated in the Constitution, with the rest turned over to the states or eliminated. The relentless mudslinging tarnished both candidates. In a Mason-Dixon poll in August 2010, 52% had a negative opinion of Reid, and Angle’s unfavorable rating was 43%.

Yet Reid did not give up easily. He raised $24.8 million, within range of Angle’s $28.1 million. (Only the Connecticut Senate race was more expensive in 2010.) He mobilized Hispanics and the powerful culinary workers’ union, both important Democratic voting blocs. He defeated Angle 50%-45%, a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that an astonishingly large 2.25% of votes were cast for “none of the above.” Also impressive was that his triumph came even though his son Rory Reid, a Clark County commissioner, was on the ballot for governor and lost to Republican Brian Sandoval.

As if to vindicate his triumph in what was an otherwise brutal year for Democrats, Reid was given ample opportunity to demonstrate his deal-making skills in the lame-duck session of Congress following the election. He played a key role in passing an economic stimulus bill that renewed expiring Bush-era tax cuts; a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members; and ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Even Republicans grudgingly acknowledged his skill. “I don’t have people saying, ‘He’s the greatest speaker,’ ‘He’s handsome,’ ‘He’s a man about town,’” Reid told The New York Times. “But I don’t really care. I feel very comfortable with my place in history.”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3542

(202) 224-7327

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 522
Washington, DC 20510-2803

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3542

(202) 224-7327

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 522
Washington, DC 20510-2803

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 686-5750

(775) 686-5757

Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building Suite 902
Reno, NV 89501-2109

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 686-5750

(775) 686-5757

Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building Suite 902
Reno, NV 89501-2109

DISTRICT OFFICE

(702) 388-5020

(702) 388-5030

Lloyd D. George Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Suite 8016
Las Vegas, NV 89101-7075

DISTRICT OFFICE

(702) 388-5020

(702) 388-5030

Lloyd D. George Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Suite 8016
Las Vegas, NV 89101-7075

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 882-7343

(775) 883-1980

600 East Williams Street Suite 304
Carson City, NV 89701-4052

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 882-7343

(775) 883-1980

600 East Williams Street Suite 304
Carson City, NV 89701-4052

Staff Leadership Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

McKenzie Bennett
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Tyler Moran
Senior Counsel

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Vaughn Bray
Speechwriter

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Animal Rights

Michael Harris
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Robert Herbert
Senior Policy Advisor / Director of Appropriations

Arts

George Holman
Senior Policy Advisor

Banking

Caren Street
Policy Advisor; Grants Coordinator

Budget

Bruce King
Senior Advisor

Nabeel Alam
Legislative Correspondent

Campaign

George Holman
Senior Policy Advisor

Commerce

Caren Street
Policy Advisor; Grants Coordinator

Congress

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Crime

Gavin Parke
Policy Advisor; Counsel

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Vaughn Bray
Speechwriter

Jared Rifis
Legislative Correspondent

Economics

Ellen Doneski
Senior Tax Advisor

Education

Jason Unger
Legislative Director

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Vaughn Bray
Speechwriter

Dominque Wardell
Legislative Correspondent; Constituent Services Manager

Energy

Alex McDonough
Senior Policy Advisor

Sara Moffat
Policy Advisor for Public Lands

Michael Harris
Legislative Correspondent

Entertainment

George Holman
Senior Policy Advisor

Environment

Alex McDonough
Senior Policy Advisor

Sara Moffat
Policy Advisor for Public Lands

Michael Harris
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Foreign

Jessica Lewis
Senior Advisor, National Security

Sapna Sharma
Legislative Correspondent

Gambling

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Govt Ops

George Holman
Senior Policy Advisor

Gavin Parke
Policy Advisor; Counsel

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Gun Issues

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Health

McKenzie Bennett
Legislative Assistant

Kate Leone
Senior Health Counsel

Homeland Security

Robert Herbert
Senior Policy Advisor / Director of Appropriations

Jessica Lewis
Senior Advisor, National Security

Sapna Sharma
Legislative Correspondent

Housing

Caren Street
Policy Advisor; Grants Coordinator

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Human Rights

Tyler Moran
Senior Counsel

Jared Rifis
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Tyler Moran
Senior Counsel

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Intelligence

Sapna Sharma
Legislative Correspondent

Judiciary

Gavin Parke
Policy Advisor; Counsel

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Vaughn Bray
Speechwriter

Jared Rifis
Legislative Correspondent

Labor

Caren Street
Policy Advisor; Grants Coordinator

Ellen Doneski
Senior Tax Advisor

Land Use

Sara Moffat
Policy Advisor for Public Lands

Medicare

Kate Leone
Senior Health Counsel

Military

Sapna Sharma
Legislative Correspondent

Minorities

Jose Garcia
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Fellow

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Monica Barrera
Senior Advisor for Hispanic and Asian Affairs

National Security

Jessica Lewis
Senior Advisor, National Security

Native Americans

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Rules

George Holman
Senior Policy Advisor

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Science

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Social Security

Bruce King
Senior Advisor

Tax

Ellen Doneski
Senior Tax Advisor

Nabeel Alam
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Telecommunications

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Trade

Ayesha Khanna
Chief Counsel

Transportation

Robert Herbert
Senior Policy Advisor / Director of Appropriations

Veterans

Robert Herbert
Senior Policy Advisor / Director of Appropriations

Sapna Sharma
Legislative Correspondent

Welfare

Samantha Swing
Legislative Aide

Alejandro Renteria
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Aide

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Harry Reid
Votes: 362,785
Percent: 50.29%
Sharron Angle
Votes: 321,361
Percent: 44.55%
2010 PRIMARY
Harry Reid
Votes: 87,366
Percent: 72.13%
Alex Miller
Votes: 9,715
Percent: 8.02%
2004 GENERAL
Harry Reid
Votes: 494,805
Percent: 61.0%
Richard Ziser
Votes: 284,640
Percent: 35.0%
2004 PRIMARY
Harry Reid
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (61%), 1998 (48%), 1992 (51%), 1986 (50%); House: 1984 (56%), 1982 (58%)

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