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.”