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tv   Presidents Obama and Biden Deliver Remarks at Senator Harry Reids Funeral  CSPAN  January 10, 2022 2:09pm-3:00pm EST

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>> president joe biden and former president barack obama delivered remarks at the funeral service for senator harry reid in las vegas nevada senator reid served as majority leader from 2007 -- 2015. he passed away december 28. [silence] >> president and first lady biden, vice president harris and gentlemen. speaker pelosi, shuman, ballard, children and grandchildren, friends and former staff, a
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great honor to be with you today to pay tribute to my friend, harry reid. to be clear and as chuck mentioned, in his remarks, i suspect harry himself would not have wanted to sit through this thing. harry did not like being center of attention. it made him a little awkward. he was uncomfortable when people said too many nice things about him. as he looks down on us today, harry is going to have to suck it up. few people have done more for this state, this country then
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this driven, brilliant, sometimes irascible deeply good man in nevada. i first met harry in 2005 after i'd been elected to the senate harry had been elevated to become democratic leader and i was the sole african-american in the senate at the time, kid with a funny name given how different our backgrounds were, i did not know how well harry and i would hit it off. he was older, of course. his kids were grown, i didn't know what kind of music he likes but i figured he didn't listen to jay-z.
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on the issues, he had a reputation for being more conservative than i was, politics, western state. he invited me to his office for ad chat shortly after i'd been sworn in. there is not a lot of small talk. in fact, not a law of talk at all. he askeds me what committee assignments i wanted, i told him. he said he'd see what he could do. at the time, his voice was so soft, i could barely hear what he was saying. "afterwards", my colleague from illinois asked mer how it went. i said i don't know. the whole conversation lasted
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maybe ten minutes, he did not seem particularly pleased with my taking up his time. don't worry, he said. if harry didn't like you, it would only have lasted five minutes. that was harry. as observed, harry was not a schmoozer or backslider. he can did not regale you with long drawn out stories and did not appreciate long drawn out stories. despite the years he'd spent in congress, despite the power he wielded, his reputation as being the consummate washington insider, why came to realize was harry always remained something of an outsider in washington.
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which makes sense given the remarkable path of the senate taken, the path at least unlikely if not more unlikely than mine. there is a mention of harry's extraordinary path, an hour away everywhere.out our harry had to hitchhike more than 40 miles each way, stay to relatives just to go to high school. he put himself through college and law school moonlighting as the uniform capitol police officer to help cover tuition and support a young family. fair to say, it was not easy. there must have been times where he felt without achieving his dreams.
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like the timee when his car broe down and he walked into the dean's office to say he wasn't sure he could afford to finish school. the dean looked him up and down and said mr. reid, why don't you just quit that dean did not know harry reid's character. underestimating the man, hardship forged a steel and harry. a fighting spirit that explains his success in the boxing ring despite being significantly undersized. he liked to talk about his boxing. you know barack? he wasn't a great athlete, wasn't big and strong like the guys i went up against. i had two things going for me.
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i could punch, i never gave up. about right. that same determination marked harry reid's political career. lost his first senate race by 600 votes. six months later he ran for mayor of this town and lost in a landslide.e. but harrybu did not give up. got himself a seat in the house and the senate and finally became senate majority leader and let's face it, he enjoyed every minute of proving doubters wrong again and again and again. sometimes the people motivate us the most, harry would later say,
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are the ones who believe in us the least. so yes, being tough, being a fighter is one of harry's singular characteristics. apparently once a staffer handed him some draft remarks in which he was supposed to refer to himself as a former boxer harry crossed out the word former. he was 70 years old at the time. but there were other aspects to harry's character that helped explain his extraordinary achievements. qualitiess that this particular moment in our history seems especially relevant.
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first and foremost, harry was a pragmatist. at a time when so many americans across the political spectrum, by strict purity test to our politicians, they told the line on just about every issue, a time when so often compromises portrayed as weakness, harry had a different view. he didn't believe in high theories or rigid ideologies, he thought most people make decisions based on their life experience, based on immediate needs of their families, based on their own self interest no matter what they may tell themselves and as a result, harry met people where they es were. where he wanted them to be and
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he was willing to cut deals, even with hopes he didn't agree with or particularly like. i heard nancy pelosi say she never heard harry say anything bad about any of his colleagues, i don't know about that, nancy. [laughter] i love nancy but -- [laughter] but he would work with them if that's what it took to move things forward. he battle between perfection and progress, harry always chose progress. the pragmatism in harry adoptable.
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when he first got to washington, his voting record wasn't different from those who represented his state in the past holding traditional positions on issues like gun rights, immigration, reproductive health but as nevada andou the country change, as harry met more and more people from different walks of life and realize their struggles weren't that different from his family's, harry's views on some of these issues changed as well. he didn't consider that a weakness. hehe understood he wasn't always going to be right about everything. he knew how to listen and learn from a humble enough to admit he had to change his mind and grow. by the way, speaking from personal experience, it helps when you are married to somebody
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whose wives are brighter than you. i know something about that. after harry introduced the bill repealing birthright citizenship in the 90s for example, it was pointed out her own father had been a russian immigrant. later harry what say i came to the realization that i was way offe base, i'm so glad she righted the ship. now of course there are plenty of politicians who change their positions just because they want to get reelected, fingers in the wind. they are interested in claiming the power for their own city. but for harry, the whole reason for wielding power was to actually get things done on
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behalf of those who represent. during his time as leader, that's exactly what he did, he got things done. without harry, who would not have passed the recovery act helping to prevent another great depression, without harry, who would not havepe saved people's jobs, help people stay in their homes, without harry we would not have passed wall street reform, the worst abuses of the financial industry. without harry, there would be no affordable care act. people forget there were many times during the debate over health care reform when it looked like nothing would get past. but harry, working with nancy pelosi in the house, working with then vice president, now
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president, my partner despite joe biden harry refused to give up. maneuvering, applying pressure like only he could, the deals harry made to get that done doesn't always look pretty. i got votes. whenever i would object to a change you want to make whether because of policyec concerns or worries about the optics, harry would tell me with exasperation in his voice, mr. president, you know a k lot more than i do abot healthcare policy. i know the senate. he was right. harry did know the senate better than just about anyone else.
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importantly, he understood why work we were doing mattered. growing up harry's family didn't have healthcare. he told me he didn't even know what it was. harry's brother broke his leg, he stayed in bed and waited for it to heal. his father needed tooth removed, he yanked it out himself, harry remembered those times. he knew what that was like. when harry put everything he had in passing it, he didn't do it to burnish his own legacy, he did it for the people back home and families like his who needed someone looking out for them. when no one else was. harry got things done. here's another thing that set
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harry apart, he was always unfailingly himself. may not sound exceptional but in washington, it's an exceedingly rare quality. harry was the first to admit he wasn't the most charismatic or politically correct speaker. after a press conference, he sometimes spoke to a staffer and say okay, tell me everything i did wrong. but harry knew who he was and he had the distinct advantage of not really caring what other people thought of him. the town obsessed with a appearance, harry had a real vanity deficit. he didn't like ponies, he didn't
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like grandstanding, he was proud of the fact he didn't own a tuxedo. when he went to fundraisers, who would try to get out in under ten minutes. apparently the only white house congressional pick harry ever attended was for his sons benefit. this dating at the time, he and miley ended up getting married so harry grudgingly admitted it was worth the sacrifice. finally, all of harry's toughness, hard-nosed views about politics, harry loved his family.
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he loved his staff harry was a true and loyal man. during my time in the senate, he was more generous to me than i had the right to. one ofeo the first people to encourage me to run for president leaving despite my youth and my inexperience, despite the fact that i was african-american, i could actuallyco win. at the time, that made one of us. you want harry with you, his willingness to fight by my side to stick with me even when things weren't going our way, my poll numbers have gone down and
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democrat might be proof to maintain a healthy distance. his willingness to be there, fight around my present. that to him, i could never fully repay. i remember toward the end of my time in the white house, michelle and i invited harry and broberg to dinner along with joe and joe and nancy and paul during the meal, harry was himself, occasionally he'd offer an opinion on this or that, the food was pretty good but generally, is keeping his own counsel.
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at the end of the night, those who were there i suspect will remember. harry suddenly asked for everyone's attention. listen, he said. everybody here knows i don't show a lot of emotion, it's just how i grew up. i just want to say, i'm proud of what i've done with this president and i love this guy. then, without any warning, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. i think it fair to say we were all surprised. and i laughed.
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i said thanks, harry, i love you, too, man. i put my arm around him which i think was tooh much for him. [laughter] he said well, okay then. it's past my bedtime and without, they headed toward the door. pragmatism, his ability of getting things done, lack of pretension and abiding loyal. that's what harry reid represents. a man of old-school virtues. there are qualities in short supply these days.
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it seems to me they are precisely all that democracy requires. harry understood you don't have to see eye to eye on everything or to live together or be decent toward each other, we can learn to bridge differences, background and race, he knew our system of government isn't based on demanding that everybody thinke the same way, and fact,t presumes in a country as big and diverse as ours, people rarely will, we can still work together. harry may have been a proud democratic person, he didn't shy away from bareknuckle politics
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but what is true is i never heard harry speak of politics as if it wasn't unbending battle between good and evil. he knew what was true for self was true for everybody, we all have our laws, our blind spots. despite all that possible for us to affirm our collective humanity because that's what made america great. once we post last office, i see much of harry but we call each other on the phone from time to time.
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he would tell me about leandra, he would speak about his kids and grandkids, about what they were doing. he told me about his illness, treatments he was going through and always keeping him busy. i sometime during those calls, he would mention somebody he'd run into, they think him getting them healthcare and particularly in recent months maybe knowing he didn't have much timeve left, he would allow himself a hint of nostalgia and talk about how together we made a darn good team. we've done pretty well for the american people.
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as i would start to reply, yes, he would cut me off, okay, then mr. president and got. the whole conversation would last about five minutes. but in those five minutes, he would communicate more than some folks in a couple of hours. that's who harry was. a man who knew what was important didn't believe him dwelling but wasn't. one former colleague explained it by saying to harry, but i wasn't unnecessary word. might not have been necessary for harry but it is for us.
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goodbye, harry. thank you for everything. nevada has never had a greater champion, senate and the country benefited from your extraordinary leadership, i could not have asked for a better friend. sure did love you back. [silence] >> mr. president, barack, i have
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to tell you every time i hear a dial tone i think of. you all think i'm kidding. i'm not. he would want us to be here, we are here for you family. eulogies are for the living. true love story, still talking aboutto your first date years later. harry never tired of telling the time to kids how to push start his car making your way down the road, wife smiles on your face.
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my recollection is he called and told me the story, one of those moments that turn a life to stay with you until the last breath. what a life you turned together until his lastnt breath. mama josh, all the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, hearing you talk about today, clear, my dad used to have an expression, say your blood of his blood, bone of his bone, you are the product of harry sandra reed, what a gift, a gift god gave you. what a gift it was and is.
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president obama, vice president harris, second gentleman, governor, thank you in the state and iris, chuck schumer, nancy pelosi, senator rosen and representatives, the titus, members of congress, democrat republican distinguished guests, what a gift harry reid was to the state this nation and so many of us individually, i know he's smiling right now, only harry reid send off between
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former president of the united states, king and the killers, thanks, harry. [laughter] always a great sense of humor. [laughter] always had to win, always did. he got me again but he always got me. the first time i met harry, i got a call, i've been elected at 29 years old to the senate, i hadn't even turned 32 yet, i was a newly electedr. senate, he asd me campaign for selection nevada senate seat vacated, i'd only just begun to know him, when we met, i met him in nevada, we were talking he said well, i used to have to go out and shoot mad dogs. i said what am i doing here? [laughter] swear to god, i would shoot mad
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dogs. i'm thinking, bless me father, for i have sent. what is going on? i lost that election by less than 600 votes he never let me forget that i probably cost him those 600 votes. only kidding about that but iona probably did. when he asked me to come back and campaign for him when he ran in the house in 1982, he won that time. he wonan an 86 and we go on to serve in congress together more than 30 years and work together eight years in office and when he was in the senate, he was never really done as all of you from nevada no. he asked me to campaign for nevada democrats, many are here today, i can never say no
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although he probably a thought u invited biden into my district i talked to him often during this past election and longer could tell you come into his home to visit and where i should be going in order to win, after he won, one of the things harry did which was incongruent withas hay is referred today, he sent me a text which saved it, i am so proud joe, you are my brother. well, is a m big deal to me he felt that way. harry never wrote what you didn't believe, it may be feel-good. he gave me a sense of confidence, felt like he was my
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brother. counted on him. i know so many of you felt that same way about harry as well. over five decades, we became genuine friends. harry's kids in pennsylvania and latter day saints, you think i'm kidding. like the guys i grew up with his grin in delaware, harry would always have your back like the guys i grew up with. harry had mine and harry knew i had his although i sometimes wonder i was trying to make important points to harryry abot whether he really did have my back as he hung up but to tell the truth, every time we would do it, i knew the real harry, it was him. yet all he needed, he didn't
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want or need any more, we did share some similarities. wiveser smarter and better lookg than we are and harry and i like to talk a lot. i'm just testing whether you are asleep yet. [laughter] whether you served with harry for decades or were new to america a few days ago, he wanted harry in your corner. his toughness, his story was unmistakably american. his remarkable journey has been told by so many because it's been traveled by so few.
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miles of hitchhiking to school, a boxing ring for he always got up, family tragedies, cancer he thought, the walls in the country he shaped, it's proof that there isf nothing ordinary about america, ordinary americans anything given half a chance. we the people, pretty extraordinary for the idea that anybody given a shot can reach their potential. harry was extraordinary though. he and i grew up on different sides of thehe country, we came from the same place, certain values ran deep. first loyalty, faith, results,
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service. your word i had from the time i was a child if your man without your work, you are not a man. he met the marker while i always believe it's the most important thing you can measure a person by, actions bring their word. he said he was going to do something, he did it. he didn't do it the modern day national, i told you i would do when i didn't realize this would happen, nod matter what happend he gave you his word and cap it is a bank on how he got so much done that of the country for so many decades that's how literally saved, if you get social security during the bush years, stop from becoming a nuclear waste b site. pure devotion, affordable care
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act, how he helped ostler on wall street, don't ask don't tell, nevada's first national park, conserve lake tahoe, he always championed native americans and tribal communities. so much more, none of it was easy. a lot is particularly popular when he was doing it. harry, he neverne gave up. he never gave up. he never gave up on anybody he cared about. like every great leader, he led the democratic caucus not just by speaking but by listening. during all points of view finding common ground. harry cares so much about his
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fellow americans and so little about what anybody thought of him, was all searchlight, no spotlight. always appreciate private comfort and he offered me and jill difficult moments in our lifefe, we know we are not the only ones. his passing, we've all heard wonderful tribute, gracious way sold, grieving and encourage someone living with a disability, saw that picture of our buddy, max, harry is standing in front of him in a wheelchair holding hisr cheeks, max knew, max knew harry care about him.
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empowering a new colleague or insist new moms and dads on his staff to put their family first even before their job do that always. capitol police recognized three times because he was one of, he wore theol uniform a friend in need, harry's voice was soft and gentle, he was stone cold silent, pursuit of fairness and prosperity, his voice would echo for generations. look, let there be no doubt harry reid will be considered one of the greatest senate majority leaders in this nation. i served longer than all about 12 u.s. senate, i've been there over 36 years. the honor of serving beyond that shortlist, for harry, it wasn't
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about power, it's about the psaki of power, the power to be able to use power to do right by people. that's why you wanted harry and your corner, that's what we should remember as a nation today. harry knew better than most how difficult democracy is, the idea of america itself was under attack, dark and deeply enforced, a battle for the soul of america, remember sitting in a room with harry, explaining to him the reason i decided to run when i decided i would never do that again is watching all of the neo-nazis come out of the field in virginia, anti- somatic carrying flags and asked me, we
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have to restore the soul of america. no one knew it better than harry. protecting democracy requires vigilance and stewardship, harry's life shows for all our darkest days we can find light and hope so what good is life? just about every respect harry reid came into this world with the odds against him. he believed life and he lived it and he left it believing anything was possible. he's demonstrated anything is possible, look at this incredible family.
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in a small way, he reminds me of my dad. my dad used to say joey, never explain and neverex complain. i remember one day we were having an event i was running -- this was fifth term, we were at my house, i was feeling a little sorry for myself, a family loss of her daughter, my dad said i'll be back in a minute, he left the house waiting for people to show up, he went to the local hallmark star, came back with a cartoon with a brass flag quips from the cartoon character f and one, hagar vikig and a ship moving along near the
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rocks, lightning comes out of the sky, the horns of his helmet, breaks his ship and he's looking up at god going god, why me? the next frame, a picture of it, hagar and for ship, a voice come from heaven saying why not? that was myat dad. what makes you so special these things will happen to you? why not? stand up, get up, never bow, never been, never yield. that was harry. never complain. that's what i admire so much about him. we all know senate office, both
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harry and mark twain loved nevada, they both knew how to say things, you know to be true about ourselves and our country. for harry, it was this. he said to himself, i grew up around people strong values even if they rarely talked about them and went on to say they love their country, worship god, never shunned hard work, never ask for special favor. that's harry. that's american. here's someone, mark twain himself would have written about as a defining character in the american story had he known harry, his staff lost an
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incredibly genuine role model. we see it carrying on the legacy, people in nevada, you lost a beloved son but spirit is always going to burn as bright as the deseret news. we lost a giant, america. plainspoken, honorable, decent, brace, unyielding man. may this be his legacy, fall on each of us, speak truth from the heart, take out remaining rounds of harry reid good life. the american we all love.
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what a gift, i mean this from the bottom of my heart, a gift. a life of the nation he turned until his last breath. god bless you, god bless the entire family. god bless my friend, harry. a great american. [silence] >> this week on the c-span networks promote the senate will debate sanctions on natural gas pipeline involved with u.s.
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diplomatic efforts between russia and ukraine. senate majority leader chuck schumer intends to work on voting rights bill which means changing the senate filibuster rules and house returns from the holiday break to take up veterans benefits legislation. today 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span three, doctor anthony fauci, cdc director rochelle walensky and other members of the administration's covid response team appear before a senate committee to discuss the omicron. the senate banking committee holds a confirmation hearing for jerome powell who president biden nominated to serve as second term as federal reserve chair today 10:00 a.m. eastern, live coverage on c-span.org and c-span now mobile app. senate banking committee returned thursday 10:00 a.m. for a second federal reserve confirmation hearing. this one for brainerd to be the vice chair and consider nomination of sandra thompson to be director of the federal housing finance agency. coverage of supreme court oral
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