Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is likely in tears at the news that Senate Leader for the Democratic Party Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be retiring in 2016. Well, maybe not. McConnell jokes that his “friend” shouldn’t be too “elated” because he’ll be sticking around for the next 22 months, and he won’t be changing while he’s still in office.
Some in the Democratic party will, however, be sorry to see their leader of a decade stepping out. Reid announced his departure — at the age of 75 — in a video posted this week. He was very clear on his reasons for stepping back and choosing not to run for re-election, and even more clear on things that did not contribute to his exit from the Senate. “The decision that I’ve made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury, it has nothing to do with my being minority leader, and it certainly has nothing to do with my ability to be reelected,” said Reid. The injury he’s referring to is a facial injury he obtained while exercising at home; some bruising, and an eye injury. He claims it’s “nothing compared to some of the bruises I got when I was fighting in the ring.”
“I have done my best. I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve really tried my hardest to represent the people of the state of Nevada,” said Reid. During his time in office, Reid has been a major influence as leader of the party, but he’s also simply been a face and voice in politics for a very long time, and a proponent for his state’s interests since the ’60s and ’70s. Let’s take a look at some of the big items he’s taken on recently, and his stances on the major issues that have affected his state, and our nation.
Roe vs. Wade and women’s rights
Reid has been a strong supporter of women’s rights and availability of contraceptives and birth control options, sponsoring a bill that helped to given women of low socioeconomic standing options for contraceptives, worked to increase sex education for all, and had a measured record on abortion support. This means that he voted in favor of certain items that could be seen as anti-abortion, like the requirement that youths receiving out of state abortion have their parents notified. Other items, like the decision in Roe vs. Wade to legalize abortion, he supported.
He has also been a supporter of equal rights for all, including signing an amicus brief asking that the Supreme Court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, and helping to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate. Additionally, he supported the paycheck fairness act, which flopped in Congress, but which he spoke strongly in favor of at the time. “A woman who performs the same work as a man should be paid the same as a man,” he said, according to The Hill. “Senate Republicans simply cannot accept that notion.”
Nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain
On the local level, Reid has worked on issues within his own state; most recently, this has included environmental conservation of Yucca Mountain in Nevada. A Republican congressman from Nevada, Cresent Hardy, suggested the use of Yucca for a nuclear waste dump, something which Reid vehemently opposed. “Opening the door to a nuclear dump Nevada is not something I will ever accept,” said Reid. “When it comes to protecting the health and safety of Nevadans from a potential environmental catastrophe, there is no benefit worth bargaining for.”
Immigration and support of the DREAM Act
Immigration is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing America’s current Congress and executive. It may be that nothing effective is pushed through both houses and past Obama’s desk on the issue, and that it will be made to wait until the next presidential election is over. However, given the increasing pressure to get something done on the issue, this may well be one of the last and most major items that Reid leads his party through reaching a compromise on.
Like President Barack Obama, Reid is a supporter of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. While some compromise will be needed to work out an agreement with Republicans, Reid has never been anything but a staunch supporter of the president’s choices with the immigration executive action, even saying prior to the order that he should as much as he possibly could with that power to protect the people living in the United States. In other words: Reid was as blue as they come, and his focus was on the people.
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