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paying tribute

Barack Obama says without Harry Reid's support, 'I wouldn't have been president'

Former President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and other lawmakers are remembering Harry Reid as "a great leader in the Senate" and "tough-as-nails strong, but caring and compassionate."

Reid, a Nevada Democrat who served as Senate majority leader from 2007 through 2014, died on Tuesday at 82. Reid was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018, and Obama tweeted that when Reid "was nearing the end," his wife, Landra, asked people to write letters she could read to her husband, as it was difficult for him to speak on the phone. In lieu of a statement, Obama, whose landmark health care legislation was passed thanks to Reid, shared his letter. 

"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," Obama wrote to Reid. "I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination." He also thanked Reid for being "a good friend," adding, "As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other — a couple of outsiders who defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And you know what, we made a pretty good team."

Schumer said in a statement that Reid was "one of the most amazing individuals I've ever met" and "tough-as-nails strong, but caring and compassionate, and always went out of his way quietly to help people who needed help." Reid was a boxer in college, and Schumer said he "used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor and the middle class."

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) praised Reid's commitment to his home state, tweeting, "To say Harry Reid was a giant doesn't fully encapsulate all that he accomplished on behalf of the state of Nevada and for Nevada families; there will never be another leader quite like Sen. Reid. To me, he was a mentor, a father figure, and someone I trusted to always give it to me straight."

Republican lawmakers are also sharing their memories of Reid, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeting that "early in our career, we worked together to get a taxpayers bill of rights passed. Even though I am ideologically opposite I must say he did a good job representing the interests of Nevada in the U.S. Senate. As majority leader he ran a tight ship."