WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders announced Sunday evening that former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died Tuesday evening, at 82, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol next week.
Reid, who served Nevada in the upper chamber for three decades, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2018.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that Reid “will be remembered as a great American, father, husband, Senate leader and one of history’s most devoted fighters for the people of Nevada and the poor and middle class throughout the country.”
“He was tough-as-nails strong, but caring and compassionate, and always went out of his way quietly to help people who needed help,” Schumer continued, saying he will miss his “dear friend and mentor greatly.”
A FIGHTER, POLITICALLY AND BEYOND:Former US Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, former Democratic majority leader, dies at 82
A formal ceremony will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, Jan. 12, Schumer’s and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offices announced. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony will be open only to invited guests.
“Few dedicated their life and career to working for and delivering for working families like Harry Reid, and it will be an honor to pay tribute to him in the Capitol next week,” Schumer said.
Throughout his more than 40-year political career, Reid gained a reputation for his soft-spoken ruthlessness. He was well-known as being an unrelenting force in Democratic politics before, during and after his tenure in the Senate.
As Senate Majority Leader, in which he served from 2007 to 2015, Reid often acted as former President Barack Obama’s enforcer, known for his uncompromising style of legislating.
Take the 2010 fight to pass the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Reid clamored to recover rapidly scattering votes for the legislation, then used his mastery of arcane Senate procedure to quickly slingshot the bill to a vote. He did much of this work behind closed doors, over loud objections from Republicans who accused him of ramming Obamacare through without sufficient sunlight.
The bill passed. Reid didn’t apologize.
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The tradition of using the Capitol Rotunda to pay tribute to distinguished Americans began in 1852. Lying in state is a rare honor that has been bestowed on only 35 people in 169 years, according to the Office of the Historian.
The last person to lie in state at the Capitol was former Sen. Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran and Kansas Republican lawmaker, who passed away in early December at the age of 98. Until 2018, Dole had been the Senate’s longest-serving Republican leader, a post he held for nearly 11 years. He was also the party’s presidential nominee in 1996.
Others have included former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020, U.S. presidents dating to Abraham Lincoln, vice presidents, members of Congress, military leaders and unknown soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Before his time in the Senate, Reid served a single term in the Nevada state Assembly and then as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. In this role, Reid became well known for his clashes with the mafia, then a very real presence in Nevada casinos in the 1970s. One infamous exchange earned him a fictional portrayal in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.”
Pelosi called Reid “a titan of public service” in a statement. “One of the most commanding and consequential Senate Majority Leaders in history, he forged extraordinary legislative progress: rescuing our economy during the Great Recession, protecting hardworking families with Wall Street reforms and moving our nation closer to our goal of universal health coverage.”
“It is my solemn honor as House Speaker to pay tribute to a legendary leader, a great American and my dear friend, Senator Harry Reid,” Pelosi concluded.
Contributing: James DeHaven, Reno Gazette-Journal