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Harry Reid: No Longer Senator But Still Seeking Change

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

In this Dec. 8, 2016 file photo Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Former Senator Harry Reid expressed concern not just about America but about the whole world during a wide-ranging interview Monday morning on KNPR’s State of Nevada.

“I was originally concerned about America, which I still am, but now my mind, even though I’m not doing anything publicly about it, my mind is focused on the world,” he said, “I’m terribly concerned about what’s going on in the world and it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out what I’m talking about.”

Reid did not get into specifics about what international matters were concerning him the most but he did wish people working in Washington, D.C. luck.

Reid left office in January after almost 40 years of service for the state of Nevada. Now, he was just named the first distinguished fellow at the Boyd School of Law at UNLV and he is working on establishing a think tank with a former foe John Boehner, who was the Speaker of the House while Reid ran the Senate. MGM Resorts International is funding the think tank that will be at UNLV.

The former senator was very clear that while he and the former Speaker disagreed often in public they still worked together to solve problems.

“John Boehner and I publicly said things that were political in nature and that was the right thing to do,” Reid said, “I didn’t like some of the things he was doing. He didn’t like some of the things I was doing…but John Boehner and I worked together.”

Reid said he and Boehner worked together to get the government restarted after it was shut down in 2013 when Congress could not agree on a continuing resolution to fund the government.

The former senator said there are several issues he is hoping to tackle with the new think tank, including infrastructure and funding for the National Park Service and the national park system. Reid believes having Boehner, a Republican, and himself, a Democrat, as leaders of the think tank will bring bi-partisan solutions.

“I think the opposite political views we have should be very, very good for us as a university and as a state and I think the country will be interested in what we have to say,” he said.

Reid blamed extreme partisanship for a choice he and other party leadership made during the Obama Administration that lead to a Supreme Court justice that many Democrats opposed.

In 2013, Reid changed the Senate rules to require a simple majority for judiciary nominees to proceed to a final vote. The rule change excluded Supreme Court nominees. Earlier this month, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules again to allow for a simple majority for Supreme Court nominations. That move allowed Justice Neil Gorsuch to be approved to serve on the High Court.

At the time, many people criticized Reid’s decision, saying the Democrats would regret it; however, Reid defended the decision and said he doesn't "regret it at all." 

He told KNPR’s State of Nevada that 130 judges had been held up because of filibusters from Republicans, who were in the minority at the time.  He also said Republicans wanted to “destroy” the National Labor Relations Board and wouldn’t move forward on board member nominations.

“We changed the rules for the good of the country,” Reid said, “It resulted in all the judges being confirmed…We came out and we changed the rule and it was so absolutely necessary.”

While Reid defended his decision from four years ago, he doesn’t agree with McConnell’s decision this year. He thinks Supreme Court nominations should still require 60 votes. 

Harry Reid, U.S. Senator (ret.), UNLV Boyd School of Law Distinguished Fellow

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.