TRANSCRIPT: Majority Leader Schumer Remarks At Congressional Tribute For Former Senator Harry Mason Reid

January 12, 2022

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today delivered remarks at the Congressional Tribute for Former Senator Harry Mason Reid. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:

Good morning: it’s such an honor to speak today about my dear friend and mentor: Harry Reid of Searchlight, Nevada, as he would proudly refer to himself.

Let me first say, to Harry’s family, and particularly to Landra, the love of Harry’s life for 62 years, who he called “his rock”:

The only time I saw Harry cry was when he told me Landra had had an awful car accident and had broken so many bones. He said over and over again, as tears streamed down his cheeks, “My poor little Landra, my poor little Landra.”

A couple months ago, as you know I lost my father, Abe, but I still feel his spirit is with me every single day. Just as I know that Harry is still with you, Landra; and your family; and with all of us today and for many of us, forever more.  

To celebrate the life of Harry Reid under the dome of the Capitol is to partake in an exercise of contradictions.

On the one hand, anyone who knew Harry Reid could count on a few things:

He rarely said goodbye on the phone, and it almost became a ritual in the first three months of any new session that each freshman would call me up and say, “why is Harry mad at me?”

I said, “no, no, no.” They didn’t even have to explain why. He doesn’t say goodbye. He just hung up. He’s not mad at you.

And he certainly would have been deeply embarrassed – and probably a little annoyed – at our holding not one but multiple ceremonies in his honor.

I can hear him now: you guys organized an entire ceremony in Nevada, invited former and current Presidents and Senators, you even had the frontman from The Killers sing! And still, that wasn’t enough for all of you?

On the other hand, even though Harry might not want this pomp and circumstance, I also know a part of him would enjoy it.

He was sorta like Sid Caesar when Sid Caesar gave a good line: “No more applause… please”

My friends, we celebrate Harry Mason Reid’s final return to the Capitol because we must.

Few have shaped the workings of this building like our dear friend from Nevada.

Few have dedicated their lives to the work of the people quite like Harry did.

And today, our feelings of both loss and gratitude are immense.

I got to know Harry when I came to the Senate in 1999.

We couldn’t have been more different: there was me, a brash Jewish kid out of Brooklyn.

And there was Harry: a soft-spoken Mormon from Searchlight.

We were a match made in heaven!

I quickly learned that – even though Harry talked softly – what he said carried the force of thunder.

He was honest. He was direct.

And he was original.

I love this story. Back in 2012, during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Harry summoned me to his hotel room late one of those nights.

I rushed over and I saw Landra in the room.

But before I could say anything, Harry pulled me aside into the small little bathroom. We were right on top of each other and he lowered his voice.

He said, “Chuck, I want you to take care of something important,” he said, and he pulled out a wad of cash from of his pocket and he peeled off four $100 bills.

“You’re working hard and doing the right things to become Leader,” he said. “But… you need to dress the part. Go buy some better shoes for goodness sake!”

Later on I asked why he pulled me into the bathroom for that conversation.

His answer? So he wouldn’t embarrass me in front of Landra.  

That was Harry Reid, to a T.

If you were lucky enough to be someone Harry cared about and called his friend, then he cared for you with every fiber of his being. 

And his generosity extended far beyond things sartorial.

A few years ago, Harry called up my wife, Iris, and told her: “I’ve sent you and Chuck a special gift. It’s the greatest thing, you’re going to love it: it’s a month’s subscription to Netflix.”

Iris didn’t have the heart to tell him we had subscribed for four years already.

And as you know, whenever he called you, he would hang up the phone so quickly that you’d think he was allergic to telecommunications.

But what he was really allergic to was the artifice of politics that he considered a distraction from his true passion: getting good things done in this Capitol.

Harry never forgot where he came from, nor did he forget the people: his childhood friends and neighbors who, just like Harry early on, struggled to get by and he kept up with so many of them.

In Harry’s view, the government had a moral obligation to see to it that these people had every opportunity to secure a better life for themselves and their families.

He was tough as nails, a fighter to his core – but one of the most compassionate individuals you could ever imagine.

In short, he was one of the most incredible and generous individuals I have ever met, the sort of person you come across only a handful of times in your life.

When you lose someone as special as Harry, they are never gone. They are always with you.

For those of us in the Senate Democratic caucus, I think that was especially true last week, as we observed the anniversary of the violent insurrection against our U.S. Capitol.

That day we saw so many acts of selflessness and heroism by our U.S. Capitol Police, who once counted among their esteemed ranks a young Harry, who served as an officer while studying at George Washington Law School.

In so many ways, in so many ways Harry was a guardian and steward of the Senate – literally and figuratively.

He took great care of the Senate as an institution. But he also knew that the Senate had to adapt to changing times.

As we confront the challenges of the coming weeks and months, I take comfort knowing that Harry is with us in spirit, walking alongside us as we continue the work he dedicated himself to for so many years.

May God rest his immortal soul, and may his memory be a blessing to us all. 

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