TIME Military

The Budget Trick That Made the Pentagon a Fiscal Functioning Alcoholic

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Erik Simonsen / Getty Images The Pentagon's $391 billion, 2,443-plane F-35 program is the costliest in history.

Bookkeeping gimmick creates a `co-dependency'

If the Pentagon needs more money—and that’s debatable—the Republicans have chosen the worst possible way to do it in the budgetary roadmaps both the House and Senate have recently approved.

That’s because they’ve kept in place the budget caps in place for defense and domestic discretionary spending for the proposed 2016 budget. While that keeps domestic spending in check, they’ve opted to fatten up the Pentagon’s war-fighting account by about $90 billion, which isn’t subject to the budget limits. Even President Obama, under heavy pressure from the Joint Chiefs, has blinked and said military spending should be boosted above the caps set in 2011. But he wants domestic spending increased as well.

The idea of special war-fighting budgetary add-ons makes sense, because while the Pentagon’s base budget trains and outfits the U.S. military, it doesn’t pay for it to wage war. But such Overseas Contingency Operations accounts are supposed to go away when the wars end, as they have in Afghanistan and Iraq (the current U.S.-led small-scale air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, like the 2011 air war over Libya, can be funded out of the base budget). But the Republicans have basically perverted a responsible approach to funding the nation’s wars into an annual, multi-billion-dollar slush fund subject to even less congressional scrutiny than regular military budgets get.

CSBAThe Pentagon budget increasingly is being inflated with war funding that has little to do with funding wars.

“There’re a lot of different opinions about whether there should be an overseas contingency account or not, and whether it’s a slush fund or not,” then-defense secretary Chuck Hagel said last September.

The account, whatever it’s called, has become a rhetorical device: pump it up, defense hawks say, or risk crippling national security. Of course, that’s flat-out wrong. If the nation believes it needs to spend more on the military, it should hold an honest debate on the topic and then vote accordingly, without budgetary chicanery.

Hagel’s successor, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is warning that the military needs more money beyond the $499 billion permitted by the 2011 law. But he says that force-feeding the Pentagon like a foie gras goose doesn’t solve the problem. “Current proposals to shoe-horn DOD’s base-budget funds into our contingency accounts would fail to solve the problem,” he said Thursday, “while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible long-term planning.”

So as the defense-budget debate continues, here are some facts to keep in mind:

1. With the Pentagon’s base-budget caps in place, its funding would rise slightly in coming years. Accounting for inflation basically makes for flat spending through 2024. The U.S. military budget today, under those caps, is higher than the Cold War average. That’s because even as the U.S. military shrinks, the cost of each remaining weapon bought and troop recruited has soared.

2. The reason the Pentagon is having trouble living within those levels is that it has grown used to pilfering its war-fighting accounts to fund normal operations, including purchasing weapons. A recent congressional report said that the Pentagon spent $71 billion of its war accounts on non-war spending from 2001 to 2014.

3. The war-fighting accounts have accounted for 23% of Pentagon spending over the past decade. Like a functioning alcoholic, the U.S. military has gotten used to the constant buzz, and is petrified of being forced to put the bottle away.

But here’s why it should stop cold turkey and get back to basic budgets:

1. Without standard congressional scrutiny, the money will be spent with even less oversight than normal Pentagon spending.

2. Because it is an annual appropriation that has to be renewed each year, there is no way the Pentagon can wisely budget for it in advance, and spent it smartly when and if it gets it.

3. Finally, counting on such a loophole sends the wrong signal. Troops are being paid and weapons bought, in part, with the equivalent of payday loans.

It also leads allies to question U.S. commitments. “We’re putting things in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund like the European Reassurance Initiative,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. “If we’re really trying to reassure our European allies in the face of a more-assertive Russia that we’re going to be there for them, why are we putting that into an account that’s only one year at a time?”

TIME 2016 Election

Democrats Caught Up in Controversial Indiana Religious-Freedom Law

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announces that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has approved the state's waiver request for the plan his administration calls HIP 2.0, during a speech in Indianapolis.

Obama, Clinton have backed similar religious-freedom bills

Indiana’s new religious-freedom law, which has prompted calls for a state boycott because it might permit discrimination against gays and lesbians, was made law by a Republican governor and Republican legislature. But the controversy could also ensnare leading Democrats like President Barack Obama, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who previously supported bills with similar effects years ago.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into federal law by President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence on ABC’s This Week, defending his state’s actions by pointing to similar federal legislation. “Indiana properly brought the same version that then state senator Barack Obama voted for in Illinois before our legislature.”

The Indiana law prohibits the state from enacting statutes that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. Critics argue it could be used to allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans in the state, prompting criticism from executives at companies like Apple, Salesforce.com and the NCAA, which will host the men’s Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis next weekend.

Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and aides to President Obama have also criticized the law. “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love,” Clinton tweeted over the weekend.

But the Indiana law was modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) introduced by then Representative Chuck Schumer, who is now a senior Democratic Senator from New York, and signed into law in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton. The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 in 1993. “The power of God is such that even in the legislative process, miracles can happen,” President Clinton joked at the time of the bipartisan consensus.

Unlike the federal law, which is focused on restricting government action to protect religious freedom, the Indiana version has a broader scope, potentially giving new rights to claim religious beliefs for private parties, like wedding-cake vendors who do not want to serve gay couples.

As an Illinois state senator in 1998, Obama also voted in favor of a version of the new Indiana law. Years after that law passed, Illinois passed an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, making clear that the law could not be used to deny service between private parties. That provision is not on the books in Indiana.

Despite weighing in on other controversial legislation in states, including this month’s passage of an anti-union bill in Wisconsin, Obama has not commented on the Indiana law, leaving his aides to critique it.

“Look, if you have to go back two decades to try to justify something you are doing today, it may raise some questions about the wisdom of what you’re doing,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. Obama ducked a question on the Indiana law Saturday from reporters before departing on a two-day golf vacation to Florida.

The 1993 federal RFRA formed the underpinning of last year’s Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court, which allowed some employers claiming religious objections to avoid providing contraceptive coverage to their employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.

In a contentious interview with NPR’s Terry Gross last year, Hillary Clinton repeatedly called same-sex marriage a state issue when explaining her decision to reverse her opposition to such unions after leaving the State Department. She has yet to weigh in on whether she believes same-sex marriage should be protected at the federal level, even as the Supreme Court is set to hear cases that would do just that in the coming months.

Asked by Gross if her views on gay rights had changed since the 1990s, Clinton said, “I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

David Axelrod, a former top political aide to Obama, wrote in his book published last month that Obama believed in same-sex marriage before he ran for the White House, but hid that position for political reasons.

TIME LGBT

Hundreds Rally Against Indiana’s Religious Objections Law

Protesters
Doug McSchooler—AP Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gathered on the lawn of the Indiana State House to rally against that legislation, March 28, 2015.

"No hate in our state"

(INDIANAPOLIS)—Hundreds of people gathered outside of the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday, some carrying “no hate in our state” signs, to rally against a new law that opponents say could sanction discrimination against gay people.

The law’s supporters, however, contend the discrimination claims are overblown and insist it will keep the government from compelling people to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds.

Since Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the country, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana. Local officials and business groups around the state hope to stem the fallout, though consumer review service Angie’s List said Saturday that it is suspending a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.

The measure, which takes effect in July, prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations. It will take effect in July.

Saturday’s crowd, for which police didn’t have an exact estimate, stretched across the south steps and lawn of the Statehouse building. At one point, they chanted “Pence must go,” and many held signs like “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone” and “No hate in our state.”

Zach Adamson, a Democrat on Indianapolis’ City-County Council, said to cheers that the law has nothing to do with religious freedom but everything to do with discrimination.

“This isn’t 1950 Alabama, it’s 2015 Indiana,” he told those in attendance, adding that the law has brought embarrassment on the state.

He and other speakers urged people to register to vote, and said only way to stop laws like this is to elect new members of the Indiana General Assembly.

Supporters of the law maintain that in courts haven’t allowed discrimination to happen under similar laws covering the federal government and in 19 other states.

But some national gay-rights groups say lawmakers in Indiana and about a dozen other states that have proposed such bills this year are essentially granting a state-sanctioned waiver for discrimination as the nation’s highest court prepares to mull the gay marriage question.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican who opposed the law, said he and other city officials would be talking to many businesses and convention planners to counter the uproar the law has caused. “I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone knows they can come in here and feel welcome,” Ballard said.

The Indianapolis-based NCAA has expressed concerns about the law and has suggested it could move future events elsewhere; the men’s Final Four will be held in the city next weekend.

Angie’s List had sought an $18.5 million incentive package from Indianapolis’ City-County Council to add 1,000 jobs over five years. But founder and CEO Bill Oseterle said in a statement Saturday that the expansion was on hold “until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees.”

Around the state, stickers touting “This business serves everyone” have been appearing in many businesses’ windows, and groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have taken to social media with messages that the state is full of welcoming businesses. Democratic South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg touted on Twitter his city’s civil rights ordinance’s protections for gays and lesbians, while Republican Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke wrote that the law “sends the wrong message about Indiana.”

Indianapolis’ tourism and convention business is estimated to have a $4.4 billion annual economic impact with some 75,000 jobs. Chris Gahl, a vice president with tourism agency Visit Indy, said: “We know that their ability to work is largely dependent on our ability to score convention business and draw in events and visitors.”

TIME technology

Hillary Clinton Permanently Deleted Her Emails

Hillary Clinton
Yana Paskova—Getty Images Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on stage during a ceremony on March 16, 2015 in New York City.

"No emails ... reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server"

(WASHINGTON)—Hillary Rodham Clinton wiped her email server “clean,” permanently deleting all emails from it, the Republican chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks said Friday.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the former secretary of state has failed to produce a single new document in recent weeks and has refused to relinquish her server to a third party for an independent review, as Gowdy has requested.

Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, said Gowdy was looking in the wrong place.

In a six-page letter released late Friday, Kendall said Clinton had turned over to the State Department all work-related emails sent or received during her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

“The Department of State is therefore in possession of all Secretary Clinton’s work-related emails from the (personal email) account,” Kendall wrote.

Kendall also said it would be pointless for Clinton to turn over her server, even if legally authorized, since “no emails … reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server.”

Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, faced a Friday deadline to respond to a subpoena for emails and documents related to Libya, including the 2012 attacks in a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The Benghazi committee demanded further documents and access to the server after it was revealed that Clinton used a private email account and server during her tenure at State.

Gowdy said he will work with House leaders to consider options. Speaker John Boehner has not ruled out a vote in the full House to force Clinton to turn over the server if she declines to make it available by an April 3 deadline set by Gowdy.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said Kendall’s letter confirmed “what we all knew: that Secretary Clinton already produced her official records to the State Department, that she did not keep her personal emails and that the Select Committee has already obtained her emails relating to the attacks in Benghazi.”

Cummings said it is time for Gowdy and other Republicans to stop what he called a “political charade” and instead make Clinton’s emails public. Gowdy also should schedule Clinton’s public testimony before the Benghazi panel as soon as possible, Cummings said.

Kendall said in his letter that Clinton’s personal attorneys reviewed every email sent and received from her private email address — 62,320 emails in total — and identified all work-related emails. Those totaled 30,490 emails or approximately 55,000 pages. The material was provided to the State Department on Dec. 5, 2014, and it is the agency’s discretion to release those emails after a review.

Kendall said Clinton has asked for the release of all of those emails. He said the State Department is reviewing the material to decide whether any sensitive information needs to be protected.

“Secretary Clinton is not in a position to produce any of those emails to the committee in response to the subpoena without approval from the State Department, which could come only following a review process,” Kendall wrote.

Gowdy said he was disappointed at Clinton’s lack of cooperation.

“Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” he said.

In a statement released later Friday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said she “would like her emails made public as soon as possible and … she’s ready and willing to come and appear herself for a hearing open to the American public.”

Read next: Former Obama Tech Expert: Democrats Need a Competitive Primary

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TIME Congress

3 Surprising Facts About Senator Harry Reid

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

There's more to the retiring Senate Democratic leader than meets the eye

When Harry Reid retires in 2017, he will have served as the Senate Democratic leader for 12 years—longer than all but two other senators in the country’s history.

But while he’s well-known inside Washington, the Senate Majority Leader is a distant figure to many Americans. His dry speaking style and low-key persona has kept him from becoming a household name, even as he’s led Democrats and at times the Senate itself.

But whether you approve of the job he’s done or not, Reid is actually fairly colorful. Here are three things you should know about the man from Searchlight as he heads out the door.

His mother used to do laundry for a brothel

Reid had a tough upbringing, growing up in “tiny wood shack with a tin roof’ as the “son of a hard-drinking gold miner, who eventually shot and killed himself,” according to a TIME 2004 profile. In 2011, Reid called for Nevada’s brothel industry to be outlawed, recalling stories of his mother taking laundry in from some of the 13 brothels that his hometown had at one point.

“Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment–not as the last place where prostitution is still legal,” Reid told the state legislature then. “When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers—not about its oldest profession.”

He once tried to choke a man who tried to bribe him

Reid was an amateur boxer and later paid his way through George Washington University as a night-shift Capitol police officer, so he knows how to crack heads, literally. That came in handy when he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. While he worked there he received “repeated death threats from the mob,” according to his biography, and had at least one instance where a man attempted to bribe him. Bad move. Per a 2005 New Yorker piece:

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, ‘Is this the money?’ Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, ‘You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!’ and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. ‘I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,’ Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

He inspired a character in a Martin Scorsese film

Few bureaucrats can say that their work was fictionalized by Scorsese. In 1978, Reid held a hearing as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission that was later used in the 1995 film Casino. Dick Smothers’ character spouted some of Reid’s statements during the scene where Robert De Niro’s character freaks out after the commission rejects his application for a license to operate a casino, according to Slate.

TIME Hillary Clinton

How Liberals Hope to Nudge Hillary Clinton to the Left

Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.

Liberals have two recurring nightmares about the 2016 elections.

In the first, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected a Republican who has spent the past year and a half promising to dismantle Obamacare, undo the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air regulations and cut corporate taxes.

In the second, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected Hillary Clinton, who has spent the past year and a half promising them absolutely nothing and courting independents and moderates.

The second scenario is obviously preferable to most liberals, but it’s still worrying. They’d much prefer to elect a Hillary Clinton who has made specific, concrete campaign pledges to them — especially since political science research shows that, contrary to popular belief, politicians tend to keep their promises.

But without a competitive Democratic primary, how can liberals push Clinton in their direction? For now, there’s no clear roadmap, but liberal activists have five general ideas.

1. Pray that Elizabeth Warren runs.

Liberal outfits such as Progressive Democrats of America and Democracy.com have launched small-scale grassroots campaigns urging Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ready for Bernie) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (Draft O’Malley) to join the race. But the big money is on Massachusetts Senator and liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren. MoveOn.org gave $1 million to launch “Run Warren Run,” and Howard Dean’s old shop, Democracy for America, dumped an additional $250,000 into the effort. The Boston Globe ran a special package last week declaring that “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren” in 2016.

While Sanders and O’Malley seem likely to follow through with a run, neither has the clout at this point to mount a serious challenge. Both are polling in the double digits behind Clinton. That makes drafting Warren, despite the fact that she has said repeatedly that she is not running, priority No. 1. “We want to get Elizabeth Warren into the race. She is someone progressives innately trust,” said Neil Sroka of Democrats for America. When he was pressed for a contingency plan, he said, “We’re extremely focused on trying to get her in, building the infrastructure she would need to run, and extending the amount of time she has to change her mind.” Wesley Clark, another one-time progressive fave, didn’t enter the 2004 race until September 2003, Sroka added, hopefully. (Of course, he didn’t win.)

2. If that fails, keep Warren’s ideas in the news.

If Warren isn’t going to be a candidate, liberals hope she can at least be a player behind the scenes. That way, they might indirectly influence Clinton as she seeks a full-throated endorsement from Warren. To that end, liberals are doing everything possible to ensure that the public conversation—in newspapers’ op-ed pages, and at every political forum, debate, and town hall meeting—centers on Warren’s brand of economic populism. “We view an election as a multi-billion dollar conversation with voters,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The more that conversation is about progressive issues, the better.”

Making that happen will involve enlisting progressive leaders both in the all-important early caucus and primary states and nationally. On Tuesday, the PCCC launched a new campaign, Ready for Boldness, along with a signed letter from 200 leaders from Iowa and New Hampshire designed to urge presidential candidates to “campaign on big, bold, economic populist ideas.” Signers included Iowa’s longtime Sen. Tom Harkin, union presidents and state legislators. “We want to show [Clinton] that it she embraces big bold progressive ideas, she won’t be alone,” Green said.

3) Stay on message.

Creating a united front around a handful of broadly popular progressive policies will be as important as ensuring that the message isn’t diluted by squabbles over fault line issues, like free trade and education reform, progressive leaders say. The PCCC’s letter Tuesday, for example, centered on helping students graduate college debt-free, expanding Social Security benefits, reforming Wall Street, enacting campaign finance reform, creating clean-energy jobs and boosting worker pay.

“There’s a real attempt by the beginning of next year to establish a clear platform that gets embraced by everyone,” said Robert Borosage, executive director of the Campaign for America’s Future, which will host a big-tent progressive conference, Populism 2015, at the end of April along with National People’s Action, USAction and Alliance for a Just Society.

“The idea is to avoid the populist bait and switch where they campaign like a populist but govern center-right,” said Maya Rockeymoore, the president and CEO of the progressive Global Policy Solutions. Progressives have to get candidates to make public commitments to enact specific agenda items, she added. “It’s not enough to say all the right things.”

4) Use Congress as a sounding board.

The PCCC and other organizations have been working with progressives in the House and Senate to propose bills on solid liberal issues, like expanding social security, reining in Wall Street financial firms and creating clean energy jobs. But timing is everything. While such bills aren’t likely to pass the Republican-dominated Congress any time soon, they can still make their way into nightly news broadcasts and shape the national conversation that way. “We’re organizing in Congress to propose bills that could become presidential issues” on the campaign trail, Green said.

5) Play the long game.

National People’s Action Campaign, among others, plan to focus on recruiting and supporting progressive candidates in municipal, county and state-level elections. The idea is not only to put progressive policies in place on the local level, but also to help shape the national political landscape from the bottom up, explained George Goehl of the National People’s Action Campaign.

“If you could get thousands of people down ballot running on a similar platform and create a bottom-up swell—that would be something that both parties would have to react to,” he said. Such a groundswell could shape the Democratic Party in the same way that the Tea Party has shaped the Republican Party. “They could help energize people across the board and create a clear line in the sand: Are you a progressive populist in this moment in time, or are you not?” he added.

While Goehl said he also supports the other prongs of the progressives’ national plan—”Getting Elizabeth Warren into the race would be great,” he said—he advised his fellow populists to hedge their bets.

“Hail Mary’s happen,” he said. “But only every so often. There has to be a plan.”

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Early Retirement Announcement Shows How Much He Likes to Plan Ahead

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

The Senate minority leader will not seek reelection in 2016

By announcing early that he will not run for reelection next fall, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has freed up party resources that might have been spent on what would have been a tough race for other elections — a major reason behind his early decision, as he told the New York Times. That kind of planning ahead is not unusual for the minority leader.

Reid’s personal background might not peg him as a super planner: as TIME explained in a 2004 profile, he was once an amateur boxer, the son of “a hard-drinking gold miner.” (His mother’s pay came from taking in laundry from brothels.) But he devoted himself to finding stability, including through a conversion to Mormonism, and ended up the kind of person who famously carries around notecards on which to record every promise he makes, with the idea that he’ll later be able to record when he fulfills them.

One of the best illustrations of that forward-looking nature was explained in that same 2004 article, in which TIME’s Douglas Waller laid out how the Senator prepared for a filibuster:

Harry Reid is the kind of adversary who might just wear you down. Last year, for example, the Nevada Senator staged a one-day filibuster, standing on the Senate floor and talking for eight hours and 35 minutes straight to put majority leader Bill Frist hopelessly behind schedule on other bills that he wanted to rush through before the Thanksgiving recess. Reid planned everything carefully, down to his diet. So he wouldn’t be forced to go to the bathroom and lose his right to the floor, he ate only a slice of wheat bread and a handful of unsalted peanuts for breakfast, kept Senate pages from refilling the water glass at his desk and made sure he sipped only half of it during the day.

One thing he can’t plan, of course, is the one thing that many Washington-watchers will wonder most: who will take his place as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Read the full 2004 story, here in the TIME archives: Herding the Democrats

TIME 2016 elections

Harry Reid Says He Will Retire at the End of 2016

Harry Reid
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. adjusts his glasses as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 24, 2015.

The senator said he didn't want to use Democratic resources that could be put to better use in other elections

Sen. Harry Reid says he will not seek reelection in 2016, bringing an end to his decades-long career in Congress as one of the longest serving Democratic leaders ever.

The former majority leader says becoming minority leader after Democrats lost control of the Senate in November had nothing to do with his decision, nor did his rib-breaking exercise accident in January. Reid, 75, said that he did not want to make use of Democratic funding to be reelected when that money could be better used in other races, citing tough battles in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In a statement, Reid also said his accident, which broke bones in his face, had given him and his wife “time to ponder and to think,” leading him to the conclusion that it would be best to hand over the reins.

Reid has already endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as his replacement over other potential successors like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. In an interview on a Nevada public radio station Friday, Reid cited Schumer’s work helping Democrats take control of 2006.

“I’ve never been a shrinking violet,” said Reid of his decision to name Schumer so early. “I think it’s very important that we have continuity in our leadership and I’ve done everything that I could to avoid a fight for leadership during all the time I’ve been in the Senate…He will be elected to replace me in 22 months. I think one reason that will happen is because I want him to be my replacement.”

“Schumer is a brilliant man from New York and he’s been a tremendous asset to me,” he added.

Reid was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, and then to the Senate in 1986. He wrote in his statement that as a boy, he’d dreamed of playing professional baseball. “But the joy I’ve gotten with the work that I’ve done for the people of the state of Nevada,” he wrote, “has been just as fulfilling as if I had played center field at Yankee Stadium.”

Barack Obama joined Reid on the radio show Friday as a surprise caller and called Reid one of his “best partners and best friends.”

“Harry’s going to be doing a lot of work over the next 20-something months but I think that when the story is written and all is told, you’re going to have somebody who has done more for Nevada and for this country as anybody who has ever been in the Senate,” said Obama. “And I could not be prouder of him. He did an unbelievable job on a whole bunch of really tough issues, saving this country from a depression, making sure millions of people had health care, making sure that young people are able to go to college. And he’s been one of my partners, best friends and I’m really honored to have served with him.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” responded Reid when Obama took the line. “What a guy.”

Read next: Congress to Solve Problem It Created 18 Years Ago

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TIME

Morning Must Reads: March 27

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The Co-Pilot: What We Know

French prosecutors claim that Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 last Tuesday, killing himself and the 149 other individuals aboard. Investigators raided Lubitz’s apartment along with his parents’ home in Montabaur, Germany, this week

Takei Urges #BoycottIndiana

Star Trek actor George Takei slams Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for signing a law that allows business owners to deny same-sex couples service

Notre Dame Beats Wichita State

The most intriguing matchup of the Sweet 16 didn’t live up to its billing, as Notre Dame topped Wichita State, 81-70, to earn a spot in the Elite Eight

Jeremy Clarkson Offered Job by Russian Military TV

A television station owned by the Russian defense ministry is offering a job to former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson. The Zvezda TV channel published a letter to Clarkson on its website late Thursday, inviting him to visit Moscow in April

Arab Leaders Inch Closer to Creation of Joint Military Force

Creation of such a force would be a sign of a new determination among Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies to intervene aggressively in regional hotspots, whether against Islamic militants or spreading Iranian power

Zayn Malik Speaks Out About Leaving One Direction

The 22-year-old said that the past week—which saw him leave the band’s tour, return home to London and subsequently quit the band—has left him “feeling quite interesting,” in an interview published Friday

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook Plans to Leave Wealth to Charity

After paying for his 10-year-old nephew’s college tuition, Apple CEO Tim Cook says, he plans on leaving all his wealth — which today amounts to $120 million — to good causes. “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change,” he told Fortune

Oil Council: Arctic Drilling Needed Now

The U.S. should immediately begin a push to exploit its enormous trove of oil in the Arctic waters off of Alaska, or risk a renewed reliance on imported oil in the future, an Energy Department advisory council says in a study to be released Friday

NBC Reviving Coach With Craig T. Nelson

The 1990s sitcom, which went off the air in ’97, will apparently be a sequel to the comedy series rather than a reboot. Coach Hayden Fox, who will have been retired, is called back to be assistant coach for his own grown son

Militias Back Out of Iraq Campaign After U.S. Air Strikes

Three Shi’ite militias pulled out of the Iraqi assault on the ISIS-held city of Tikrit in protest of U.S. air strikes supporting the campaign. Reports indicate the groups, representing a third of the 30,000 government-led forces, are withdrawing from the front lines

The Winklevoss Twins to Play Themselves on Silicon Valley

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have already been portrayed onscreen once, but this time around they will be playing themselves. The twin brothers, famous for suing Mark Zuckerberg over claims Facebook was their idea, will have a cameo in HBO’s Silicon Valley

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Watch President Obama Interview The Wire Creator David Simon

“Omar, by the way, is my favorite character”

A television writer couldn’t have scripted it better.

President Barack Obama, a longtime fan of the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire, sat down with the show’s creator David Simon this week to speak frankly about America’s war on drugs and the perils of law enforcement.

Simon, a vociferous critic of the federal government’s drug policies, pulled no punches as he spoke with the President.

“What the drugs don’t destroy, the war against them tears apart,” said Simon.

Obama appeared receptive to Simon’s criticism and insisted that things were slowly improving in the country.

“The fact that we’ve got people talking about it in a smarter way, gives me a little [encouragement],” he said.

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