Moral Low Ground

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Harry Reid to Retire from Senate

March 27, 2015 by Brett Wilkins in Congress, Progressives with 0 Comments
(Sen. Harry Reid)

(Sen. Harry Reid)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced on Friday he won’t seek reelection in 2016, a move that surprised many and sparked speculation about who will replace him and his role as Democratic leader.

Reid, 75, who is recovering from serious eye, facial and rib injuries caused by a New Year’s Day home exercise accident, said in a ‘thank you’ video posted on YouTube and Twitter that the bruises on his face are “nothing compared to some of the bruises I got fighting in the ring” as an amateur boxer in his youth, but that the incident “has caused us [Reid and his wife Landra Gould] for the first time to have a little bit of downtime… time to ponder and to think.”

“We have got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada, than us,” Reid said. “And as a result of that, I’m not going to run for reelection.”

“The decision I made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury, and it has nothing to do with my being majority leader, and it certainly has nothing to do with my ability to be reelected, because the path to reelection is much easier than it probably has been any time that I’ve run for reelection,” he continued.

“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” added Reid, whose boyhood dream was to be a professional athlete. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”

Reid, who was once Nevada’s lieutenant governor, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, and has served in the Senate since 1987. He was Senate majority leader from 2007 until the Republican takeover of 2015. While in leadership, Reid was instrumental in making the deals and gathering the votes necessary to win passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law.

“I am so happy that we were able to get the health care bill passed,” Reid said.

As Nevada’s Hispanic population soared, Reid evolved on the issue of immigration, becoming an advocate for granting legal status to people living illegally in the United States. He is also known for his support for alternative energy and his attacks against the billionaire Koch brothers, who he accused of “trying to buy the country” by spending hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the outcome of elections across America. Reid also attempted to limit the influence of money on politics and sought to overturn the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling which affirmed corporate personhood and the right of corporations to spend unlimited funds influencing elections.

On foreign affairs, Reid was much less progressive, backing every war waged by the United States during his tenure—the 1991 Gulf War, 1999 NATO campaign against Serbia, 2001 punitive war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, 2011 Libyan intervention and the current campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. These wars have resulted in at least hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, deaths, and have strained American finances, greatly increasing national debt.

Reid’s retirement will mark the end of a three-decade congressional career in which he increasingly became a top target of Republicans, despite his relatively moderate record. Conservatives were particularly infuriated by his successful move to to limit filibusters, but even some of his liberal colleagues took exception to his stance on certain issues, particularly abortion.

Such a prominent departure will leave an opening at the pinnacle of Senate Democratic leadership, as well open up a Senate seat in a hotly-contested battleground state with a rapidly growing population. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New Yorker who helped Democrats win control of the Senate in 2006, is considered the favorite to replace Reid as minority leader. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, currently the second-ranking Senate Democrat, could also be a contender.

As for the Nevada race, Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general, is considered a strong Democratic candidate; Republican contenders will likely include state Senate leader Michael Roberson.

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