Harry Reid Retiring From Senate

After nearly 20 years in office, Harry Reid announced early today that he would not seek reelection in 2016.

Senator Harry Reid speak to reporters in the Capitol in Washington

Harry Reid, who has been a member of the Senate since 1987 and has served as the leader of the Democratic Caucus in that body since 2007, announced early this morning that he would not seek re-election in 2016, setting off a shakeup of the Democratic heirarchy in the Senate and opening a likely Republican pickup two years from now:

WASHINGTON — Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance.

Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections.

“I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”

He has already confounded the new Republican majority this year by holding Democrats united against a proposal to gut the Obama administration’s immigration policies as well as a human-trafficking measure Democrats objected to over an anti-abortion provision.

“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” said Mr. Reid, who used a sports metaphor about athletes who try to hang on too long. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”

Mr. Reid’s tenure has become increasingly combative in recent years and included a procedural change on nominations that infuriated Republicans. He also came under fire for blocking floor debate, and even some of his Democratic colleagues suggested that he was stifling the Senate. Just this week, he alienated House Democrats who thought he was sabotaging a compromise on Medicare.

His departure at the end of 2016 will create an opening both at the top of the Senate Democratic hierarchy and in a Senate contest that would have been a megaspending slugfest in the presidential battleground of Nevada. Conservatives such as Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who were a favorite target of Reid criticism in 2014, would have spared no expense in trying to oust him.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who helped Democrats capture the Senate in 2006 and has led their political messaging operation, is considered the favorite to succeed Mr. Reid as party leader. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, could also be a contender for the job, but it is unclear how strongly he would pursue it.

In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, the state’s former attorney general, is considered a strong Democratic candidate with Mr. Reid out; the Republican field will be fluid and is likely to include Michael Roberson, a State Senate leader.

Mr. Reid had previously insisted he was running and said he was confident that he could have triumphed next year had he decided to seek a sixth term. The onetime amateur boxer noted he might not have even run in 2010 if Republicans had not made such a point of trying to unseat him.

He also said he was worried his race would consume campaign money that would be needed in other competitive states as Democrats try to regain control of the Senate.

“I think it is unfair for me to be soaking up all the money to be re-elected with what we are doing in Maryland, in Pennsylvania, in Missouri, in Florida,” he said. “These are big, expensive states.”

Reid’s most notable recent political battle, of course, was in 2010 when he ended up facing off against Tea Party backed candidate Sharron Angle, who had beaten off challenges from more mainstream members of the Nevada GOP to win the nomination. As it turned out, Angle was exactly the candidate that Reid needed in a year that was fairly bad for the Democratic Party, since her stumbles, mis-statements, and outright strange views about political issues did more to help Reid’s campaign than anything Reid did himself. Indeed, by all accounts, Reid likely would have had a much tougher race in 2010 had Republicans nominated a better candidates and the fact that he would have faced a much tougher opponent in 2016 is no doubt one of the reasons influencing Reid’s decision here. Among the potential Republican candidates for Reid’s seat are current Governor Brian Sandoval, who was re-elected in a landslide last November. Sandoval has previously ruled out running against Reid, but it is unclear whether that calculus might change now that the seat will be open in 2016. If he doesn’t run, then candidates like Roberson, or perhaps one of the Republican Members of Congress, would likely jump into the race. On the Democratic side, the favored candidate seems to be Catherine Cortez Masto, the former state Attorney General who has been long rumored to be Reid’s preferred choice as a successor

In either case, the race in Nevada is likely to be a high-profile race in 2016 and, while Republicans will consider it a priority, Democrats also have reason to be optimistic:

Reid’s decision, like the 2010 retirement of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, may be one of the rare cases in which an open seat is easier for a party to defend than the incumbent. Nevada has been swinging strongly Democratic in presidential years, as the party’s machinery turns out Hispanic votes and wins by landslide margins in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Barack Obama won the state twice; even John Kerry had strongly competed for it, losing by only 2.6 percentage points. The Democratic turnout in 2012 was strong enough to nearly defeat appointed Senator Dean Heller, even after his Democratic opponent was dogged by a congressional ethics probe. (Like most such probes, it made headlines then sputtered out.)

Had Reid run for re-election, he probably would have been the overwhelming favorite notwithstanding what would have been a large Republican effort to unseat him yet again. With him out of the race, Republicans have an opportunity for a pickup but it’s far from certain and much will depend on which candidate they pick and which way the political winds are blowing two years from now.

In addition to the battle for a Senate seat, Reid’s retirement will also set off a battle at the top of the Democratic Caucus. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is second in line to Reid in his position as Senate Minority Whip, but New York’s Chuck Schumer could end up posing a challenge to Durbin when it comes to time for Democrats to select a new leader in November 2016. This will be especially true if the Democrats manage to regain control of the Senate, but even if they remain in minority status it’s likely that Durbin and Schumer will be skirmishing with each other to gain favor with the caucus between now and then. That challenge will, in turn, set off battles further on down the line as other long-serving members of the Democratic caucus seek to move up the line. In any case, it’s safe to say that Reid’s retirement is a big political earthquake that Washington and Nevada will be dealing with for some time to come.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Rodney Dill says:

    I had to laugh when I checked the article and found it paired with this ad.

    hard and joyful

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Speaking as a New Yorker, I would prefer someone other than Chuck Schumer …

  3. stonetools says:


    What’s the problem with Chuck? A lot of liberals think he is too cozy with Wall Street, but I figure that probably isn’t your reason:-).

    The good thing is that Schumer ( and Durbin too) will be in safe seats where they don’t have to worry about losing, especially in non-Presidential years.

    Also, do any Illnionis folk want to weigh in on the merits or demerits of Durbin? And does Patty Murray have a shot?
    Lastly, I just want to thank Harry Reid for his service. It can’t have been easy , leading a fractious Senate Democratic caucus against the party of pyschopaths. For the next 22 months, Harry… give ’em hell.

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @stonetools: I just don’t think his style lends itself to being an effective caucus leader. I know and like him personally, but I don’t think he’s our best candidate for the position.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    A chance for different leadership.

    I like Senator Schumer, he is smart and, like Harry Reid, unafraid of the Republican Party.

  6. Pinky says:

    I notice that the picture gives him a giant halo, just like the…um…nobody thinks of Reid.

  7. humanoid.panda says:

    @Pinky: Given that he was instrumental in passing the biggest advance in obtaining a federal health insurance guarantee for all Americans in fifty years, he deserves all the halos he can get.

  8. humanoid.panda says:

    @humanoid.panda: Also of not: alongside Pelosi, Reid was instrumental in stopping Bush’s Social Security privatization attempt. Given that this happened in the midst of an epic bubble, those two probably rescued the American political system from an unimaginable cataclysm.

  9. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: Come on, do you have no eye for art?!

    I’m not just being bombastic. That is the dimmest effin’ halo I’ve ever seen. Go back and look at that Ted Cruz picture again. Note the effin’ light behind his head and how bright the color is. Note how well it conforms to the size of his head in the picture, as if enhancing it rather than adorning it. Note the crowd around him, all eagerly awaiting his word. The picture is well-framed and well-lit. Further, it happens to draw stylistic parallels with religious art from prior to the Renaissance.

    The framing and lighting of this picture makes it look as if Reid is wearing Lady Liberty’s Halloween headdress. Sure, there’s a whole “light of reason” element to his face (see here for an example of this in late 1800s American realism, note how the old surgeon’s face is well-lit compared to the rest of the subjects) but that’s a common trope to works glorifying scientists and pioneers, not figures of religious devotion.

    I took one Art History class and I’ll be damned if I let that knowledge go to waste!

  10. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: Actually, it looked to me like the Ted Cruz “halo” wasn’t circular. It seems to extend straight downward, although the effect is diminished by shading. There is a little curlicue on the top that looks like a descending Holy Spirit, though. In the picture above, Harry Reid looks like he’s killing time while Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum upload the virus.

  11. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: You do hit on something though. The framing of this pic of Reid is from below, making it seem as if he’s an important person. I just don’t recall if this is an observation from art history or film studies.

    It’s a staff photo from when he’d just become Majority Leader, so I guess it’s appropriate visual language. Hmm.

    On halos: In the older art, it’s wasn’t like it is now with a floating glowing circlet above your head. It just was your head was aglow. It looks odd seeing it the first time, but then you see it over and over again… The texturing provided by the curtains, though, I thought would have been a nice touch if it had been painted.

  12. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: I’m thinking more Nevada, Area 51, Independence Day.

    Was Bill Pullman on the list of fictional presidents a few articles ago?

  13. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: …huh, I don’t remember him there. Funny enough, his dead wife was. That actress played Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Jesus. Schumer. Oh, man, that’s hard to take. Does Congress not understand that whoever fills leadership roles has to have some capacity to communicate without alienating? McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi, Reid was already bad. Swapping a Reid for a Schumer doesn’t help.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That was my take on it. Chuck is a smart guy, but he’s also an abrasive guy. Caucus leaders don’t need to be smart so much as they need to be able to build coalitions, lead them and hold them together. They also need to posses a near encyclopedic knowledge of Senate rules and parliamentary procedure.

    Reid performed both jobs pretty well, especially the second one, but I’m honestly not really that sorry to see him go.

    In a perfect world, I’d pick Amy Klobuchar, but I have no doubt that the éminences grises in the Senate will focus more on “it’s my turn” than “this person is best qualified to lead us”.

  16. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds: The fact that all the names you mentioned are terrible communicators might indicate that communications is in fact not a very relevant skill for congressional leadership..

  17. soaboutthat says:

    @stonetools: Ah yes, Patty Murray, the woman who claimed that the terrorists flocked to Osama’s banner because of all the hospitals and day care centers he built. Seriously Team Blue?

    “Don’t be too elated. I’m going to be here for 22 months, and you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate.”

    Sweet family land deals?

  18. Tillman says:


    The good thing is that Schumer ( and Durbin too) will be in safe seats where they don’t have to worry about losing, especially in non-Presidential years.

    Damn it, got caught up in my first favorite activity at the expense of my second.

    Yes, let’s praise as virtue their unassailable incumbency! Not that this could be benefiting from a systemic issue and therefore making it unlikely to be resolved if we praise it when we benefit from it.

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I can’t speak for Durbin, but Chuck is adored in NY, for a few primary reasons:

    He tends to be scope locked on what benefits New Yorkers, and goes after it (and makes sure that his constituency knows that he did).

    He does a great deal of pressing the flesh with the voters. The guy makes at least one personal visit in every county in New York to talk with the voters – every year. He’s done it for 16 years now and never missed a county. As a result, he generally represents (and votes) what New Yorkers want.

    My biggest moment of pause with regard to him being the caucus leader is that Chuck has never met a camera that he didn’t like. There are jokes about the most dangerous place in DC being between Chuck Schumer and a television camera. My basic worry is that Schumer as leader would end up being the Chuck Schumer show, and that doesn’t benefit us as a party in the long run.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: You’ve reminded me of an old joke: “Wow! You engineered a virus to take out the alien ship that quickly!” “Nah, I just uploaded the Microsoft OS.”

  21. The other problem with Schumer is that he’s one of those politicians for whom there is no problem so trivial that it’s not worthy of federal intervention:

    U.S. Is Urged To Investigate Cereal Prices

  22. Tillman says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Just read a TPM article that said pretty much the same. He does a good job of listening to caucus members, making their views known among leadership, etc. That’s great, it is. But then the same article mentioned he was the head of the party’s strategy and messaging, and I thought immediately that this was 2015, the year the Democrats lost the Senate, and he’s the next leader. It seems like poetic injustice.

    It’s a gut feeling of mine that most people react to events with gut feelings.

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The other problem with Schumer is that he’s one of those politicians for whom there is no problem so trivial that it’s not worthy of federal intervention:

    U.S. Is Urged To Investigate Cereal Prices

    We’ve come a long way since 1995.

    No need to investigate, just blame Obama, and tie the increase in cereal prices to weakened consulate security in Benghazi, and ongoing negotiations between the Obama Administration and Iran. If necessary, ask Netanyahu to speak before Congress to reinforce the point that Israel’s security is jeopardized by any increase in the price of matzoh.

  24. Just Me says:

    This makes me happy-wish he would retire immediately and take Mitch McConnell with him.

  25. bandit says:

    Another public servant who came from humble roots and will leave to multiple mansions. Schumer’s a cretinous a-hole which will endear him to his parties moocher/moron core constituency.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    Another public servant who came from humble roots and will leave to multiple mansions.

    Perhaps if politics wasn’t so drenched in so much cash (money being equated with free speech and all of that) we wouldn’t see so many politicians following this route…

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Ah, Harry Reid. Born to breathtaking poverty, he entered public service over 50 years ago and managed to somehow amass a ten-figure fortune while on the public’s dime. Now that he’s retired, he can spend even more time to rant about the Koch brothers and indulge other symptoms of dementia.

    Plus, maybe he can sue the makers of that “exercise equipment” that nearly killed him earlier this year…

  28. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Now that he’s retired, he can spend even more time to rant about the Koch brothers and indulge other symptoms of dementia.

    I’ve heard that he intends to provide pro-bono services to the conservative voters and legislators who suffer the debilitating effects of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

  29. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: That would be entertaining. Let him overcome his own sick, delusional obsession before he offers counseling to others.

    In his current state, I’d have more faith in Charlie Sheen offering sobriety tips.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    Of course it makes sense why some would dislike Harry Reid…his effectiveness disturbs them…

  31. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: Yeah, there’s something effective about a corrupt, bald-faced liar who scored millions of dollars while on the public payroll.

    And he still hasn’t given a plausible explanation for how he got so injured earlier this year. Personally, I think the “tuned up by the Mafia” theory is most likely, but “beaten by the parent of a child he’d taken liberties with” is also possible.

    Yeah, those are unsubstantiated allegations. There’s as much proof to back them up as when Reid said Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years.

    Live the smear, die by the smear.

  32. James P says:

    Harry isn’t running because he didn’t want to risk being humiliated by losing to Brian Sandoval.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Since this troll / Jenos sockpuppet is clearly not inclined to either admit his deception or to do the honorable thing and just leave, I propose that henceforth none of us acknowledge him in any way beyond expressing our derision via the downvote.

  34. DukeLaw92 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Sparky, you acknowledge me every time you stalk me from post to post. You’re really not that bright, are you?

    YOu want proof of my educational credentials? Well, my chosen handle proves I went to Duke and graduated in 1992, right? What more proof do you need than a chosen handle?

  35. James P says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You seriously do need to get a life.

    On the office chance that you are so stupid that you can not recognize irony when you see it, no, I am not a Duke alum. Knowing you, you’d use that to try to accuse me of lying about a Duke affiliation.

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Oh, please. Keep me out of your silly little bitch-fight.

  37. James P says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Jenos, the little children are convinced that you and I are one in the same. I personally think it’s a good thing if they want to believe that (which is why I have never denied it), but one of them will eventually figure it out.

  38. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “And he still hasn’t given a plausible explanation for how he got so injured earlier this year.”

    Quite possibly because it’s none of your business, you deslcable little troll.

    How hilarious that the assclown who hides behind multiple sockpuppets to spread lies over the internet demands complete transparency about patently personal issues from those of whom he disapproves — that is, anyone who has ever accomplished anything in his life.

    Meanwhile he struts around bragging about a PhD has never earned and using that “accomplishment” as “proof” of his greater intelligence.

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Being as stupid as you are should be painful, But I guess that’s an advantage in being such a numbskull — I had no idea in your case, it was literal.

    For the record: I am not JamesP. Never have been. Never will be.

    You keep accusing me of using multiple identities here, and every single time you’re wrong. It’s a running joke, except it’s totally pathetic and utterly unfunny.

    I’d tell you to come up with a new schtick, but I really don’t think you’re mentally capable of that.

    And as far as Harry Reid goes… he’s a public figure, who’s put out a totally unbelievable story about why he’s leaving public service. (A move long overdue.) I find it more plausible that he was tuned up by a Mafia thug or smacked around by the parent of a violated child.

    Hell, I’d even believe that he’s retiring because he can no longer fend off all the incredibly corrupt scandals that account for how he ended up with his ten-figure forture…

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Oh, and while we’re at it, moron, just what does “deslcable” mean, anyway? Usually it’s your sentences that are incoherent, but now it’s down to the word…

  41. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: It’s a typo. I meant despicable. Although loathesome is probably better.

    And the fact that you keep denying the obvious truth about your sock puppets does not actually make it any more true than all your other lies. Like your doctorate from the LSE.

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: You keep making that same accusation, I keep denying it. I’d tell you to put up or shut up, but you lack the brains, self-awareness, integrity, honesty, and balls to do either. Instead, you’ll keep repeating the same lies, because that’s all you can do.

    Maybe your mommy will buy you a varsity letter in commenting…

  43. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “You keep making that same accusation, I keep denying it”

    And yet your writing style betrays you every time.

  44. James P says:

    I for one am fascinated that the little children think that Jenos and I are one in the same.

  45. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James P: You find it fascinating. I find it tedious.

    I’d tell wr to find a new schtick, but quite frankly it’s the least of the ballless, gutless, branless moron’s problems.

    And I said that when I called him to “put up or shut up,” he couldn’t do either. He’s so predictable in his pathos.

  46. James P says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The humor is that they are eventually going to figure it out and then they will have egg on their face.

  47. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Sock puppeting is a violation of the site’s terms. So is repeatedly making false accusations of sock puppeting without proof.

    Here’s a wager. We both ask the authors here to examine whether or not JamesP and I are the same commenter. If it is shown that we are, I go away (and, obviously, “JamesP” would also go away). If they say that we are not the same, you go away. Because either way, someone’s violating the site’s Terms and should be kicked out.

    You willing to put some skin in the game? You that confident in your lies?

    I’m willing to put it on the line.

    And no, I’m not inviting JamesP into the wager. If you’re right, then that would be redundant. If I’m right, I have no business making wagers in his name. Just you and your big mouth and empty head, vs. me.

  48. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James P: The humor is that they are eventually going to figure it out and then they will have egg on their face.

    You really aren’t that stupid, are you? I mean, I tried ignoring you, but you seem to insist on assuming some kind of collegiality (see what I did there?) with me.

    Whether or not they ever figure it out, they will never admit it. Not publicly, and maybe not even to themselves. They think they’ve got some clever way to insult us both, and they will never give it up.

    There are a couple of ways to deal with it. Ignoring it is one. I’ve got a couple of other notions.

    Your approach? Gentle mockery and smug condescension? Utterly pointless. All it does is make you look like the same kind of smug douche they are.

  49. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    But back on topic: even Harry Reid’s home town paper says his retirement story makes no sense.

    And just what kind of character is Reid? He was asked if he felt and regrets over his lies about Mitt Romney and taxes. His defense? “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

    Sounds like the kind of thing wr would say, come to think of it…

  50. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Enough of this stupidity. I got better things to do today.

    Actually, pretty much anything would qualify as “better…”

  51. James P says:


    And yet your writing style betrays you every time.

    Since you are now a self proclaimed expert on forensic grammar can you offer an opinion as to whether the verbiage of “Dreams from my Father” is more consistent with the writing style of Barack Hussein Obama or the writing style of Bill Ayers?

  52. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: One more notion just struck me.

    1) wr seems to have a thorough immunity to the site’s Rules of conduct.

    2) “Accuse others of doing what you’re currently doing” is a fairly sold tactic.

    Could wr be a sock puppet for one or more of the site’s authors? Where they can say the kinds of things that they’d really want to say, but feel they need to preserve some sense of propriety?

  53. Jay says:
  54. Jay says:

    It is no surprise that he does not regret lying. After al he is a politician and LDS, both known for lying if it fits their agenda.

  55. James P says:

    @Jay: That’s a rather bigoted comment. All Mormons lie? I thought liberals didn’t like painting groups with a broad brush.

  56. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Remember, “it” (commenter above) is a troll. Do not feed it or acknowledge it in any way beyond downvoting its screeds.

  57. jukeboxgrad says:


    Born to breathtaking poverty, he entered public service over 50 years ago and managed to somehow amass a ten-figure fortune


    his estimated net worth peaked at around $10 million just a few years ago

    I’ll write that out for you: $10,000,000. That is described as “a ten-figure fortune” only if you include the pennies. Why do you lie so much?

    By the way, if you invest $25,000 per year for 50 years, and you earn 7%, at the end you will have over ten million dollars. $25,000 is 14% of his current salary.