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Harry Mason Reid (born December 2, 1939) is the senior United States Senator from Nevadamarker and a member of the Democratic Party. He has been the Senate's Majority Leader since January 2007.

Reid has been leader of the Senate Democrats since 2005, serving as Minority Leader from 2005 until the Democrats won control of the Senate in the 2006 congressional elections. He is the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve as Majority Leader.

Early life

Reid was born in Searchlight, Nevadamarker, the son of a miner in the camp 50 miles southeast of Las Vegas. He attended Basic High School in Henderson, Nevadamarker, where he played football and was an amateur boxer. While at Basic he met future Nevada governor Mike O'Callaghan, who was a teacher there. Reid attended Southern Utah Universitymarker and Utah State University.

Reid graduated from George Washington University Law School with a J.D. while working for the United States Capitol Police. He returned to Nevada after law school and served as Henderson city attorney before being elected to the Nevada Assemblymarker in 1966. In 1970, At age 30, Reid was chosen by O'Callaghan as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada.

Political career: 1966–2009

Nevada politics: 1966–1981

Reid and his mentor O'Callaghan won the race and Reid served as lieutenant governor until 1974, when he ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Alan Bible. He lost by fewer than 600 votes to former Governor Paul Laxalt. In 1975, Reid ran for mayor of Las Vegas and lost again, this time to Bill Briare.

Reid then served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, a post that subjected him to death threats. Jack Gordon also tried to bribe Reid. Reid allowed the FBImarker to tape Gordon's attempt to bribe him with $12,000. Reid lost his temper and attempted to choke Gordon, "You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!", and was pulled off by FBI agents. Gordon was convicted in United States district court in 1979 and sentence to six months in prison. In 1981, Reid's wife once found a bomb attached to one of their cars, a bomb Reid suspects was placed by Gordon.

U.S. Representative: 1982–87

Prior to the 1980 Census, Nevada had only a single at-large member in the United States House of Representatives, but population growth in the 1970s resulted in the state picking up a second district. Reid won the Democratic nomination for the 1st district, based in Las Vegas, in 1982, and easily won the general election. He served two terms in the House, from 1983 to 1987.

U.S. Senator: 1987–present

In 1986, Reid won the Democratic nomination for the seat of retiring two-term incumbent Paul Laxalt. He defeated former at-large Congressman Jim Santini, a Democrat who had turned Republican, in the November election. He coasted to reelection in 1992. However, he barely defeated 1st District Congressman John Ensign in 1998 in the midst of a statewide Republican sweep.

In 2004, Reid won reelection with 61 percent of the vote, gaining the endorsement of several Republicans.

Ensign was elected to Nevada's other Senate seat in 2000. He and Reid have a very good relationship, despite their bruising contest in 1998. The two frequently work together on Nevada issues.


From 1999 to 2005, Reid served as Senate Democratic Whip. He served as minority whip from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2005, and as majority whip from 2001 to 2003 (except for a brief period from January-May 2001). From 2001 to 2003, he served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Reid succeeded Tom Daschle as minority leader in 2005. He became majority leader after the 2006 elections.

Reid was re-elected Majority Leader by the Democratic caucus without an opposition on November 18, 2008, winning all 57 votes.

Committee memberships

Political positions

A method that some political scientists use for gauging ideology is to compare the annual ratings by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) with the ratings by the American Conservative Union (ACU). Reid has scored a lifetime conservative rating of 19% from the ACU, and a 2008 liberal rating of 70% from the ADA. Other independent ratings include a 100% rating from NARAL in 2001, and a 57% rating by Planned Parenthood in 2006.

Reid has spearheaded several initiatives while in Congress. In 2006 Reid co-sponsored the "Prevention First Amendment" with Hillary Clinton, which would fund abortion prevention efforts, such as giving women broader access to contraception; however the bill faced Republican opposition and failed. In January 2007, Reid brought a Senate ethics reform bill to a vote to bar congressional members from accepting gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists and organization employing them, as well as barring Senators from borrowing corporate jets for travel and compelling them to disclose the names of sponsors, or authors, of bills and specific projects. The bill passed 96 to 2.

Regarding specific issues, Reid believes in a restricted right to abortion, stating that "abortions should be legal only when the pregnancy resulted from incest, rape, or when the life of the woman is endangered." He has also voted several times to ban the "intact dilation and evacuation" or "partial-birth abortion" procedure. Regarding same-sex marriage, Reid has stated he believes "...marriage should be between a man and a woman." He voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act but against the Federal Marriage Amendment. He is historically in favor of the death penalty, stem cell research and gun control. He also supports legislation for $15 billion in tax breaks for large oil companies, aiming to put the money toward renewable energy sources. With regards to local issues, Reid has firmly opposed the proposed Yucca Mountainmarker federal nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Reid called immigration reform one of his top priorities for the 110th Congress and supports the DREAM Act which would make it easier for young people who are not citizens of the United States but are permanent residents to attend college or university in the United States. He also opposed a Constitutional amendment to make English the national language of the United States. In June 2009, Reid announced his intention to enact a new guest worker program as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Reid has supported the use of force in the Middle East but has called for a drastic change in strategy. In January 1991 he voted to authorize military force in Iraq to liberate Kuwaitmarker, quoting John F. Kennedy's 1963 State of the Union speech on the Senate floor, saying "the mere absence of war is not Peace". He also voted in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in March 2007 he voted in favor of "redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008". Later that year, however, he said, "As long as we follow [President Bush's] path in Iraq, the war is lost."


Over the years Reid has been the subject of several criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Liberal critics argue thatReid is not doing enough to end the American military presence in Iraq, and that he allowed Senate Republicans to create a 60-vote bar for passage of bills without actually a Democratic fillibuster.

Reid has also been criticized for several potentially self-enriching tactics. In 2005 Reid earmarked a spending bill to provide for building a bridge between Nevada and Arizona that would make land he owned more valuable. Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, 'incredibly good news for Nevada' in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He owned of land several miles from the proposed bridge site in Arizona. The bridge could add value to his real estate investment. A year later it was reported that Reid had used campaign donations to pay for $3,300 in Christmas gifts to the staff at the condominium where he resides; federal election law prohibits candidates from using political donations for personal use. Reid's staff stated that his attorneys had approved use of the funds in this manner but that he nonetheless would personally reimburse his campaign for the expenses. That action notwithstanding, the conservative group Citizens United announced it had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to investigate the matter.

In 2006, Reid was also brought under question as to his possible involvement in the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, in that he purportedly "received more than $50,000 from four tribes with gaming interests between 2001 and 2004 after they hired Abramoff," which would have introduced a conflict of interest. However, the Senate Ethics Committee never accused Reid of violating Senate ethics rules.

Cultural and political image

Part of Harry Reid's confrontation with Frank Rosenthal while chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission is reenacted in the 1995 movie Casino. Reid had a cameo role in the movie Traffic (2000), in which he played himself. He appeared along with Senators Sam Brownback and Barack Obama in the 2007 documentary film Sand and Sorrow, which details the genocide in Sudan.

Reid was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 2001.

National opinion polls have shown Senate Majority Leader Reid's job approval to be low or unfavorable. Democrats as a whole in the United States Congress also receive low approval ratings, although almost always higher than their Republican peers. An October 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal favorability poll indicated 51 percent of Nevadans view Reid unfavorably, with 32 percent indicating favorability. A December 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal job approval poll showed 42 percent of Nevadans rating Reid "poor," 41 percent "excellent or good," and 16 percent "only fair."

Family and personal life

Reid and his wife have five children, one of whom, Rory Reid, is an elected Commissioner for Clark Countymarker, Nevadamarker, and another who recently ran for municipal office in Cottonwood Heightsmarker, Utahmarker.

Reid is a first generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reid and his wife, who was born to Jewish parents, converted to Mormonism while Reid was a college student. He stated in an interview with Brigham Young Universitymarker's Daily Universe that "I think it is much easier to be a good member of the Church and a Democrat than a good member of the Church and a Republican." He went on to say that the Democrats' emphasis on helping others, as opposed to what he considers Republican dogma to the contrary, is the reason he's a Democrat. He delivered a speech at BYU to about 20,000 students on October 9, 2007, in which he expressed his opinion that Democratic values mirror Mormon values.


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