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tv   Yasmin Vossoughian Reports  MSNBC  January 8, 2022 12:00pm-1:00pm PST

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insights of former senator carol moseley braun, alaina beverly, geoff bennett and eugene daniels. we expect chuck schumer to join our coverage and that conversation will be shepherded by my friend and colleague, yasmin vossoughian. i'll see you guys tomorrow at noon eastern. ♪♪ welcome, everybody, i'm yasmin vossoughian. thank you for joining us for our continuing coverage of the memorial service. >> former senate majority leader harry reid. we are still expecting to hear shortly from current majority leader charles schumer, house speaker nancy pelosi, and then the eulogy from barack obama and president biden as well. nbc's leigh ann caldwell is in nevada for us for today's service honoring harry reid. i want to go to leigh ann. leigh ann, it's good to see you this afternoon. thanks for joining us on this.
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talk us through what we have been hearing so far in memorializing, eulogizing the former senate majority leader. >> reporter: good afternoon, yasmin. yeah, so, i'm outside the smith performing arts center. it's a beautiful performing arts center inside where there are hundreds of people who came to invite only, actually, to honor the late senator. many of these people have worked for him over his long career in washington, and many of them are friends or people who have been impacted by his life. now, the first hour of this service has been devoted to speeches from his children. he has a very large family, five children, and of course, they have been talking mostly about the person of senator reid, not the senator, but someone as a father, someone who they admired extremely deeply, someone who they were close with until his final days. of course, after he left
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washington, senator reid came back to las vegas to southern nevada. he grew up just about 45 miles outside of here in the small town of searchlight, nevada. it's barely a town anymore, other than the fact that there are some memorials for the late senator. it was a mining town, as was known to having a dozen brothels and zero churches. he grew up without running water, without a toilet, and once he finished eighth grade, there was no high school, so he would hitchhike 40 miles to henderson, nevada, which is just a suburb of las vegas, to go to high school. and from then, he just continued to fight his way to -- through law school, through college, to washington, d.c., as well where he eventually became senate majority leader, and he had a lot of accomplishments there, including the passage of the affordable care act, and we expect president obama, who is
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going to eulogize him any moment now and just in the next 30 minutes or so, to credit him for being able to pass his legislative signature achievement. and so there's a lot of, you know, senator reid has -- had such a major impact, not only on the country, not only on the democratic party, the city of las vegas, the state of nevada, including turning -- helping to turn las vegas into this major tourist destination from a -- for people around the world, yasmin. >> yeah, and we are going to continue to follow the services there in las vegas, nevada, where leigh ann is. and of course, as she just mentioned, senate majority leader chuck schumer will be speaking. house speaker nancy pelosi as well along with the former president, barack obama. and president biden. as soon as they begin speaking, we're going to bring that to you as well. leigh ann, thank you for now. i want to turn now to the january 6th investigative committee, saying members expect
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to ask former vice president mike pence to voluntarily appear before the panel. committee chair bennie thompson announcing the formal invitation could come before the end of this month as the investigation moves into a new phase, taking a closer look at donald trump's inner circle and new public requests for voluntary testimony. nbc's julie tsirkin is on capitol hill for us following the story. julie, it's good to see you. the former vice president's testimony, obviously incredibly crucial here. are we expecting him to turn down this request? how likely is it, a subpoena from the committee could happen? >> reporter: well, yasmin, i'll tell you, just on thursday, the one-year anniversary of the january 6th attack on the capitol, i asked senator -- excuse me, chairman bennie thompson whether he has been in touch with the vice president's team or not. the committee plans to decide this month whether they will extend an invitation to the former vice president. now, we don't know whether that will come in the form of
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subpoena. they're hoping it will be voluntarily. remember, his role is central to the investigation. his role on january 6th, a year ago, under pressure by the former president, of course, to object to the election certification in seven states across this country. of course, we know he accepted a ceremonial role, ultimately refusing to do what the former president was trying to pressure him to do. let's take a listen to one of the republicans on the house select committee and what he had to say yesterday to our hallie jackson. >> we certainly would like him to voluntarily talk to the committee. his staff has been more than helpful with us, coming in and shedding light on a lot of things. and i would be surprised if he didn't want to, in some way, cooperate. and i don't know if that means probably maybe not -- hopefully not a subpoena, but maybe it's written answers to questions or, you know, voluntary interview, but we'd love to hear from him. obviously, regardless of your opinions of him, he acted nobly that day despite the pressure and could have created a much
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worse crisis if that's even thinkable, but it certainly could have been. >> reporter: now the committee that has been operating largely behind closed doors over the past half a year or so will now also be shifting their strategy. we can see some public primetime hearings in the next couple of weeks, starting in march or april, according to some members on the committee, really starting to connect the dots, and everything they've learned through the hundreds of interviews behind the scenes and bringing it to the public, letting them see and hear the information that they have collected, and by the way, of course they're hoping to release a report sometime in the summer as the midterms near around the corner. yasmin? >> julie, i just want to ask you about voting rights here, because as we just went through the anniversary of january 6th, much of the conversation has shifted now to voting rights and the efforts to get voting rights passed in washington. where are we on this, especially ahead of the midterm elections just down the road from now? >> reporter: i got to tell you,
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yasmin, majority leader schumer, senate democrats have been facing tremendous pressure by grassroots organizations, particularly with their inability to advance the build back better act and they now turn to voting rights, of course, and on friday, we actually learned that this coming week, they're going to plan to start to take up the freedom to vote act, which of course is designed and coauthored, actually, by senator joe manchin to be a preventive measure to some of these restrictive measures being taken by republican-led legislatures across the country. and so, we could see that process get going next week, and that includes, of course, a rules change, something designed, and the senate has been briefing, of course, even their most -- the two folks that are holding out on this, joe manchin, kyrsten sinema, they have been involved in countless meetings, hearing from experts as to the importance of actually changing the rules to ensure that these voting rights measures could be passed, because, of course, they require 60 votes otherwise and 10 republicans just won't join that effort. >> yeah, and you mentioned senate majority leader chuck schumer.
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we are waiting to hear him now, to eulogize former senate majority leader harry reid. as soon as that begins, we will bring it to you. for now, julie, we thank you. and join us, by the way, at 4:00 p.m. for an hour-long special devoted to the impact of the insurrection and where we go from here. january 6th, the year ahead, starts at 4:00 p.m. right here on msnbc. you don't want to miss that conversation and that hour, which is coming right uh. up i want to turn to the latest on covid headlines as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country. first, to the supreme court, where the conservative majority signalled they are not likely to allow president biden to enforce his vaccine and testing mandate for large employers, which is aimed at slowing the spread of covid. the rule impacts as many as 100 million workers, and then in chicago where the teachers union and city officials, including the mayor, are at odds about returning to in-class learning. public school classes were canceled for the third day in a
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row friday with the chicago teachers union arguing the city has not done enough to ensure teachers and students are safe. but just today, the city submitting a new proposal to the union to address issues like testing and contact tracing in hopes of returning students and teachers to the classroom. we will, of course, keep our eyes on these stories. and with that, i want to go back to nevada, where senate majority leader chuck schumer is speaking now, the memorial service for former senator harry reid. >> just know that every single person in this room and literally thousands more across the nation are holding you in their hearts as you endure this painful loss with your family. i lost my dad a month ago, but he's still with me. just as i know harry is with all of us and will always be. five years ago, at the unveiling of harry's official portrait, i said, it will be quite some time
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until we see another like harry mason reid. five years later, that statement remains as true as ever. he was one of a kind. the presence of so many distinguished guests at this memorial, president biden, president obama, speaker pelosi, elder ballard of the church of jesus christ of latterday saints, and so many others, so many of my colleagues who came here, both present and those who previously served in the senate. all of us being here is proof of the wide and deep impact that harry had on this world. now, that being said, no doubt, harry would be extremely annoyed and embarrassed that so many of us made a trip out to las vegas for him. i know nothing he'd want less than to sit through a bunch of speeches talking about how great
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he was. but i knew harry well, and even though he wouldn't want it, i know a part of him would enjoy it. he'd sort of be like sid cesar after he got some applause, no, please, no more applause. i got to know harry when i came to the senate in 1999. here was this man, softspoken mormon from searchlight, a town that was miles away from nowhere, at least in my mind. and here i was, a brash jewish kid out of brooklyn, a borough that's nearly as populous as the state of nevada. we were a match made in heaven. i quickly learned that just beneath harry's softspoken nature was a truly honest and original character. there are so many stories. let me tell you one. back in 2012, during the democratic national convention in charlotte, harry called me
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all excitedly and summoned me to his hotel room late at night. i knocked on the door, and harry let me in. i'm not sure if landra remembers, but she was there. i thought we were going to discuss some important issue about the next day's convention, but before i could gather my thoughts, harry pulled me aside into the small little bathroom. we were virtually on top of each other, and he lowered his voice. chuck, i want you to take care of something important, he said. before pulling out a wad of cash out of his wallet and peeling off four $100 bills. you know, he said, you've been working hard and doing a lot of the right things to be democratic leader, but you need to dress better. please buy some better shoes. now, at first, i thought halfry
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pulled me into this little bathroom because he didn't want landra to see him wasting $400 on the senate's worst dressed member. but when i asked harry about it later, he said to me he didn't want to embarrass me in front of landra. that was harry to a tee. it was no secret that harry didn't care for the decorum of public office, but he did know how to dress his part. he cut his hair regularly, he shined his shoes, he wore nice suits from clothiers like kicky freedman that i couldn't afford but a few years later i got the better of harry when i showed up to the senate wearing a freeman suit of my own. harry was surprised. he said, chuck, i thought you said you should never afford a freeman suit. i told him, i can't, so i visited the warehouse in rochester and bought one at a wholesale price. harry stopped slipping me money for clothes after that.
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now, to be clear, i don't just travel around the state looking for good deals on clothing. for example, as many of you know, every year, i attend and speak at dozens of college graduation ceremonies around new york every may and june. harry, of course, knew about this tradition. and he thought it was hilarious. in fact, he liked it so much that one day, he gathered all hundred of his staffers into his office and asked me to deliver the entire 15-minute speech to all of them. but after i became democratic leader, he started to worry about my habit. every graduation season, he'd call up my wife, iris, who's here today, and plead with her. you got to stop him from going to every graduation and every event. he's got to garner his strength and his health. that's just who harry was. if you were lucky enough -- lucky enough that he cared about you, called you his friend, and he cared about you with every
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fiber of his being. sometimes, you could even say he cared a little too much. you know, landra wasn't the only woman i've seen harry kiss passionately on the lips. it was back in 2006. harry and i were watching the election returns together. they announced our friend, claire mccaskill, was the winner of the senate race in missouri, and we would take back the senate, and i kid you not, harry went up to the tv screen and smacked claire, his lips on hers, his lips remained attached of the tv screen for a full ten seconds. he kissed claire's image so passionately, i had to get up and wipe the copious spittle off the tv screen. that's how much we all loved harry. so, harry, in short, was one of the most incredible individuals i've ever met.
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the sort of person you come across only a handful of times in your entire life. he was tough as nails. fighter to his core. but also one of the most compassionate individuals you could ever imagine. he never forgot where he came from. he always stuck up for the underdog and the little guy. i believe harry drew a lot of that compassion from his faith. he grew up, of course, as everybody knows, in a town with more than a dozen brothels and no church. but as many here know, after harry moved to henderson and met landra, they both converted to the church of jesus christ of latterday saints. harry kept the book of mormon in his office, and i would like to read a verse from chapter 9 that gives me great comfort after the loss of my dear, dear friend. and mentor.
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oh, how great the plan of our god, for on the other hand, the paradise of god must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again and all men become incorruptible and immortal and they are living souls. they are living souls. when you lose someone special, they're never truly gone. they always stay with you. for those of us in the senate democratic caucus, i think that was especially true this past week as we observed the anniversary of the violent insurrection against our u.s. capitol, one of the darkest moments for our democracy in living memory. the day saw so many acts of selflessness and heroism by our
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u.s. capitol police, who once counted among their esteemed ranks one harry mason reid, who served as an officer while studying at george washington's school of law. in so many ways, so many ways, harry was a guardian and steward of the senate, literally and figuratively. he took great care of the senate, as an institution, but he also knew that the senate had to adapt to changing times. as we confront the challenges of the coming weeks and months ahead, i take comfort knowing that harry is with us in spirit, walking alongside us. he's right there. as we continue the work he dedicated himself to for so many, so many years. may god rest his immortal soul, and may his memory be a blessing to all of us.
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>> good afternoon, everyone. it is indeed a great honor to join this tribute to the towering titan of public service, senator harry reid. wasn't it deeply moving for all of us to hear lana and rory and leif and josh and key speak so lovingly of their father?
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you, his children, along with his many precious grandchildren, has darling great-grandchild, are his greatest pride, but hearing you speak about him shows us what a source of strength you were to him. of course, the love and happiness he shared with his adoring and beautiful wife, landra, was a source of joy to all of us who know them. all of us here today are here personally to celebrate the life of our dear friend, harry. some of us, including two presidents of the united states, the vice president, members of both the senate and house, are also here officially to salute a legendary statesman. i have the privilege as speaker of the house to bring the sympathy of the house of representatives where harry once served, chuck will say, not as long as he served in the senate, but i do lay claim to harry, because that's where i first met him.
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i wasn't in congress then. but he was in the house, and he was running for the united states senate. it was 1985 and time for the '86 election. george marcus is here, who took up his cause in san francisco. my husband, paul, is here, and harry was a high priority for us in winning the senate. so, as speaker of the house, i'm pleased to join our distinguished majority leader, steny hoyer, our members of the nevada delegation, dina titus, steve horsford and susie lee to bring greetings of all of our colleagues, to someone we all viewed as a great person. i have a great deal i want to say about harry, but you know harry. he was a man of few words, and he wanted everybody else to be a person of few words. and again, we'll go to the phone calls, because i, immodestly,
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say that i probably got hung up on the most by harry reid. two or three times a day, for 12 years. that is official working days. sometimes saturday and sunday. but anyway, if we had a really succinct conversation, harry, subject, this, problem, this, timing, this, even if it was that succinct, you know, click. click. so sometimes i even called him back and said, harry, i was singing your praises. i was thanking you for the great job you did in the legislation and the rest. i don't want to hear it. click. i even said to him, when he was announcing his retirement, i want to have a big dinner and invite all of your friends that you're served with in the past, in the house and the senate and the rest. i don't want to do it. but i want to, you know, for them to sing your praises.
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i don't want to do it. save the money. feed the poor. harry reid. his modesty made him unique, you might say, in politics. but his humility was rooted in his strong values from a humble childhood, rising from searchlight to the spotlight and becoming one of the most celebrated and consequential senate leaders in history. yet, throughout his more than four decades of public service and even at the highest levels, he never forgot his north star, to fight for working families like his own and to fight for nevada. indeed, harry loved his home state, you know that. he did everything he could to ensure nevadaens' voices were heard. whether protecting the state's natural environment or its political environment, especially its coveted role in the presidential selection
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process, to observe harry lead and legislate was to see a master at work. fearless, strategic, knowledgeable, and brilliant. he was a pioneer, saw it like a pioneer. as senate leader, few could rival harry's understanding of his senators, their states, their needs, their ambitions. and in all of our conversations, before he hung up, i never heard harry say an unkind word about any of his senate colleagues. democratic or republican. for the 12 years we served together as leaders in our respective houses, i had the privilege of seeing his mastery firsthand, rescuing american families with the american recovery and reinvestment act, protecting hardworking consumers with the dodd-frank reforms, and championing the passage of the affordable care act, just to name a few.
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under the leadership of president barack obama and vice president joe biden. when he retired and we would no longer be speaking constantly on the phone, he came to my office -- this was when he announced his retirement -- he said, nancy, i have something for you to remember me by. i thought it might be a handwritten note or special photo. instead, he unveiled a massive bald eagle, stuffed with the wings still capable of fluttering in the breeze. shocked, i said, harry, did you go hunting and kill an endangered species? he said, no. he died flying into a power line, and i called him sparky. whether symbolic of his patriotism with the bald eagle, his environmentalism or his dry
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sense of humor and dry it was, it is one of the finest and most curious gifts i've ever received. and a subject of great question in the speaker's office. today, this majestic bird has flown from the senate leader's office over to the speaker's office, appropriately and with his permission, now called harry. for his great legislative achievements, his most enduring public legacy will be that he was beloved. a word not often used to describe political leaders. he was beloved by his colleagues, by his staff, by maintenance workers and by the capitol police and as the leader mentioned, with whom he served as a young man as the capitol policeman. truly beloved by all because he treated everyone with dignity and respect. next week, leader schumer and i will have the solemn privilege
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of welcoming harry back to the capitol to lie in state, a proper tribute for an historic, patriotic american. may it be a comfort to landra and the beautiful family, all who love him, that so many americans mourn with you at this sad time. paul and i, who loves landra and loved harry, send you our personal sympathy and love. god truly blessed america with the life and legacy of harry reid. may he rest in peace. thank you. >> house speaker pelosi there eulogizing former senate majority leader harry reid at his funeral in las vegas, nevada. before her was senate majority leader chuck schumer as well, speaking. speaker pelosi saying he never forgot his north star, to fight for working families like his
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own. senate majority leader chuck schumer saying, if you were lucky enough to be called his friend, he will take care of you forever. we are awaiting former president barack obama to speak, followed by president biden as well. carole king will be eulogizing him coming up, singing her song as well. we'll bring that to you when that happens. we are going to sneak in a quick break. happens we are going to sneak in a quick break.
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i brought in ensure max protein, with thirty grams of protein. those who tried me felt more energy in just two weeks! (sighs wearily) here i'll take that! (excited yell) woo-hoo! ensure max protein. with thirty grams of protein, one gram of sugar, and nutrients to support immune health. welcome back, everybody, to continuing coverage of the funeral services of former senate majority leader harry reid. we were just taking a listen to carole king, who sang, "in the name of love." before her, speaker pelosi spoke briefly about her experiences alongside the former senate majority leader. they led together in washington
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for 12 years. and before that, we heard senate majority leader chuck schumer, who called the former senator tough as nails, and we are now going to take a listen to the former president, barack obama. >> as president and first lady biden, vice president harris and second gentleman imhoff, leader schumer, speaker pelosi, mr. ballard and most of all to harry's beloved landra and children and grandchildren, friends and former staff, it is a great honor to be with you today to pay tribute to my friend, harry reid. now, to be clear, and as chuck
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mentioned in his remarks, i suspect harry himself would not have wanted to sit through this thing. harry did not like being the center of attention. it made him a little awkward. he was uncomfortable when people said too many nice things about him. but as he looks down on us today, harry is going to have to suck it up. because few people have done more for this state and this country than this driven, brilliant, sometimes irascible, deeply good man from searchlight, nevada.
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i first met harry in 2005 after i'd been elected to the senate, and harry had been elevated to become democratic leader. and i was the sole african american in the senate at the time, a mixed kid with a funny name, and 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 liked, but i figured he didn't listen to jay-z. on the issues, he had a reputation for being a little more conservative than i was. reflecting the politics of his western state. so, he invited me to his office
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for a chat shortly after i had been sworn in. there was not a lot of small talk. in fact, there was not a lot of talk at all. he asked me what committee assignments i wanted. i told him. he said he'd see what he could do. half the time, his voice was so soft, i could barely hear what he was saying. afterwards, my senior colleague from illinois, dick durbin, asked me how it went. i said, man, i don't know. the whole conversation lasted maybe ten minutes. he did not seem particularly pleased with my taking up his time. don't worry, dick said. if harry didn't like you, it would have only lasted five minutes.
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that was harry. as has been observed, harry was not a schmoozer or a back slapper. he did not regale you with long, drawnout stories, and he did not appreciate long, drawnout stories. despite the years he'd spent in congress, despite all the power he wielded, his reputation as being the consummate washington insider, what i came to realize was that harry always remained something of an outsider in washington. which makes sense. given the remarkable path to the senate that he had taken. a path that was at least as unlikely if not more unlikely
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than mine. others have mentioned harry's extraordinary journey out of searchlight. the tiny desert town an hour away from just about everywhere. how harry had to hitchhike more than 40 miles each way to henderson and stay with relatives just to go to high school, how he put himself through college and law school, moonlighting as a uniformed 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 doubt about achieving his dreams. like the time when his car broke down and he walked into the dean's office to say that he wasn't sure if he could afford to finish school. as harry remembered it, the dean looked him up and down and said, mr. reid, why don't you just quit?
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that dean did not know harry reid's character. like others who would later underestimate the man, hardship had forged a steel in harry. a fighting spirit that explained his success in the boxing ring despite being significantly undersized. he liked to talk about his boxing. you know, barack, i wasn't a great athlete, i wasn't big and strong like some of the guys i went up against, but i had two things going for me. i could take a punch, and i never gave up. that's about right. that same dogged determination marked harry reid's political career.
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he lost his first senate race by just 600 votes. six months later, he ran for mayor of this town and lost in a landslide. but harry did not give up. he got himself a seat in the house and the senate, 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 who motivate us the most, harry would later say, are the ones who believe in us the least. so, yes, being tough, being a fighter was one of harry's singular characteristics.
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apparently, once a staffer handed him a -- some draft remarks in which he was supposed to refer to himself as a former boxer, and 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. qualities that, at this particular moment in our history, seem especially relevant. first and foremost, harry was a pragmatist. at a time when so many americans across the political spectrum apply strict purity tests to our
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politicians, demanding they toe the line on just about every issue, at a time when so often compromise is portrayed as weakness, harry had a different view. he didn't believe in highfaluting theories or rigid ideologies. he thought most people make decisions based on their life experience, based on the 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 were. not where he wanted them to be. and he was willing to cut deals, even with folks he didn't agree with or particularly like. i heard nancy pelosi say she never heard harry say anything
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bad about any of his colleagues. i don't know about that, nancy. but he would work with them. i love nancy, but i -- but he would work with them. if that's what it took to move things forward. in a battle between perfection and progress, harry always chose progress. and that pragmatism made harry adaptable. when he first got to washington, harry's voting record wasn't so different from those who had represented his state in the past. holding traditional positions on issues like gun rights, immigration, reproductive health. but as nevada and the country changed, as harry met more and
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more people from different walks of life and realized their struggles weren't that different from his family's had been in searchlight, harry's views on some of these issues changed as well. he didn't consider that a weakness. he understood that he wasn't always going to be right about everything. he knew how to listen and to learn and was humble enough to admit when he had to change his mind and grow. and by the way, speaking from personal experience, it helps when you're married to somebody whose wiser and brighter than you. i know something about that. after harry introduced a bill repealing birthright citizenship in the 1990s, for example,
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landra pointed out that her own father had been a russian immigrant. later, harry would say, i came to the realization that i was way off 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 re-elected. they've got their fingers out to the wind. they're interested in clinging to power for its own sake. but for harry, the whole point of holding office, the whole point of wielding power, was to actually get things done on behalf of those he represented. during his time as leader, that is exactly what he did. he got things done. without harry, we would not have
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passed the recovery act, helping to prevent another great depression. without harry, we wouldn't have saved people's jobs, helped people stay in their homes. without harry, we would not have passed wall street reform, reining in some of the worst abuses of the financial industry. without harry, there would be no affordable care act. people forget that there were many times during the debate over healthcare reform when it looked like nothing was going to get passed. but harry, working with nancy pelosi in the house, working with then vice president and now president, my partner in this fight, joe biden, harry refused to give up. maneuvering and applying pressure like only he could.
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the deals harry made to get that law done didn't always look pretty. he got votes. whenever i would object to a change he wanted to make, whether because of some policy concerns or worries about the optics, harry would tell me, with some exasperation in his voice, "mr. president, you know a lot more than i do about healthcare policy, okay? but i know the senate." and he was right. harry did know the senate better than just about anyone else. more importantly, he understood why the work we were doing mattered. growing up, harry's family didn't have healthcare. he told me he didn't even know
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what it was. when harry's brother broke his leg, he stayed in bed and waited for it to heal. his father needed a tooth removed, he yanked it out himself. harry remembered those times. he knew what that was like. so, when harry put everything he had into passing the aca, 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 nobody else was. harry got things done. and here's another thing that set harry apart. he was always unfailingly himself. that may not sound exceptional, but in washington, it is an exceedingly rare quality.
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harry was the first to admit he wasn't the most charismatic or politically correct speaker. after a press conference, he'd sometimes go up 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. in a town obsessed with appearances, harry had a real vanity deficit. he didn't like phonies. he didn't like grandstanding. he was proud of the fact he didn't own a tuxedo. when he had to go to fundraisers, he would try to get out in under ten minutes. and apparently, the only white house congressional picnic harry
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ever attended was for his son, key's benefit. key wanted to impress a girl he was dating at the time. he and maile ended up getting married, so harry grudgingly admitted it was worth the sacrifice. finally, for all of harry's toughness, for all his hard-nosed views about politics, harry loved his family, loved his staff, and harry was a true and loyal friend. during my time in the senate, he was more generous to me than i
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had any right to expect. he was one of the first people to encourage me to run for president, believing that despite my youth and despite my inexperience, despite the fact that i was african american, i could actually win, which at the time made one of us. you wanted harry in the fox hole with you. his willingness to fight by my side, to stick with me even when things weren't going our way, and my poll numbers had gone down, and some democrats thought it might be prudent to maintain a healthy distance from me, his willingness to be there and fight would last throughout my presidency.
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it's a debt to him that i could never fully repay. i remember toward the end of my time in the white house, michelle and i invited harry and landra over for dinner along with joe and jill and nancy and paul and chuck and iris. and during the meal, harry was his usual curmudgeonly self, occasionally he'd offer an opinion on this or that, mutter about the food was pretty good, but generally, he was keeping his own counsel. but at the end of the night, those who were there, i suspect, will remember this. i sure do. harry suddenly asked for everyone's attention.
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"listen," he said. "everybody here knows that i don't show a lot of emotion, okay? that's just how i grew up. i just want to say that i'm really proud of what i have done with this president and that i love this guy. and then without any warning, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. i think it's fair to say that we were all surprised. and i laughed. i said, well, thanks, harry. i love you too, man. and i put my arm around him, which i think was too much for him. because he said, well, okay then. it's past my bedtime, and with
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that, he and landra headed for the door. pragmatism, adaptability, a premium on getting things done, a lack of pretension, and abiding loyalty. that's what harry reid represented. a man of old-school virtues. they are qualities that are in short supply these days. and yet, it seems to me they are precisely the qualities our democracy requires. harry understood, we don't have to see eye-to-eye on everything. in order to live together.
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and be decent toward each other. and that we can learn to bridge differences of background and race and region. he knew that our system of government isn't based on demanding that everybody think exactly the same way. in fact, it presumes that, in a country as big and diverse as ours, people rarely will, but we can still work together. harry may have been a proud democratic partisan. he didn't shy away from bare knuckle politics, but what is true is that i never heard harry speak of politics as if it was some unbending battle between good and evil.
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because he knew what was true for himself was true for everybody, that we're all a bundle of contradictions. we all have our flaws. we all have our blind spots. but despite all that, it was possible for us to affirm our collective humanity, because that's what made america great. once we had both left office, i didn't see much of harry. but we'd call each other on the phone from time to time. he'd tell me about landra, and he would speak with great pride about his kids and his grandkids and all that they were doing. he told me about his illness and
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the treatments he was going through. and what was keeping him busy. and at some point during those calls, he'd usually mention somebody he'd run into who had thanked him for getting them healthcare or saved their job. and particularly in recent months, maybe knowing that he didn't have much time left, he'd allow himself a hint of nostalgia and talk about how together we'd made a darn good team. that we'd done pretty well for the american people. and as i would start to reply, yes, he would cut me off. okay, then, mr. president, he would say, and hang up.
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the whole conversation would last about five minutes, but in those five minutes, he'd communicate more than some folks do in a couple hours. that's who harry was. a man who knew what was important and didn't believe in dwelling on what wasn't. one former colleague explained it by saying, to harry, good-bye was an unnecessary word. it might not have been necessary for harry, but it is for us. good-bye, harry. thank you for everything. nevada has never had a greater champion in the senate, and the
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country benefitted from your extraordinary leadership, and i could not have asked for a better, truer friend. i sure did love you back. mr. president, barack, i have to tell you, every time i hear a dial tone, i think of harry. y'all think i'm kidding. i'm not.
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jill and i are here for harry, but he wouldn't want us to really be here for just him, as everybody has referenced. landra, we're here for you and for the family. eulogies are for the living. you know, it's a true love story when you're still talking about your first date 60 years later. harry never tired of telling the time you two kids had to push start his car, making your way down the road with wide smiles on your face. my recollection is he called it, when he told me the story, one of those, quote, moments that turn a life and then stay with you until the last breath. landra, what a life you turn


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