Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) paid tribute to a former political adversary Tuesday evening after the news broke that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) died following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
BREAKING: Harry Reid, probably the most important elected official in Nevada history, has died at 82.
My condolences to his family and friends.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) December 29, 2021
McConnell, who rose to the position of minority leader in the 110th Congress (2007-2009) — at the same time that Reid, who hailed from Nevada, became the majority leader — found himself opposite Reid on numerous issues over the next decade until the latter retired.
“His life’s journey began in a house that lacked running water. It took him all the way from amateur boxing and a stint with the U.S. Capitol Police to eventually becoming one of the most senior leaders whom that force protected,” said McConnell.
“You could hardly invent a more quintessentially American story, and it took Harry’s legendary toughness, bluntness, and tenacity to make it happen,” he added.
McConnell addressed the lengthy rivalry between himself and Reid in his final thoughts, adding, “The nature of Harry’s and my jobs brought us into frequent and sometimes intense conflict over politics and policy. But I never doubted that Harry was always doing what he earnestly, deeply felt was right for Nevada and our country.”
Schumer, who was elected to lead the Senate Democrats when Reid retired, announced that the flags at the nation’s capital would be lowered to half staff in his honor.
In honor of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
The flags at the Capitol are being lowered to half-staff.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 29, 2021
Former President Barack Obama, whose two terms in the White House aligned closely with the years Reid led his party in the Senate, shared the letter he wrote to Reid in what he knew was his final days.
“When Harry Reid was nearing the end, his wife Landra asked some of us to share letters that she could read to him. In lieu of a statement, here’s what I wrote to my friend.”
When Harry Reid was nearing the end, his wife Landra asked some of us to share letters that she could read to him. In lieu of a statement, here’s what I wrote to my friend: pic.twitter.com/o6Ll6rzpAX
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 29, 2021
Obama’s letter reads:
I got the news that the health situation has taken a rough turn, and that it’s hard to talk on the phone. Which, let’s face it, is not that big of a change ’cause you never like to talk on the phone anyway!
Here’s what I want you to know. You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect. I wouldn’t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn’t have gotten most of what I got done without your skill and determination.
Most of all, you’ve been a good friend. As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other — a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And you know what, we made for a pretty good team.
Enjoy your family, and know you are loved by a lot of people, including me. The world is better ’cause of what you’ve done. Not bad for a skinny, poor kid from Searchlight.