WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) final days on Capitol Hill are winding down, and on Tuesday he reminisced about idyllic days in Congress under President Reagan — until House Speaker Newt Gingrich got the gavel under President Clinton.
Reid also admitted to reporters in his last media availability following a closed Senate Dems’ luncheon that he didn’t like facing them.
“As I was coming in, someone said this will be your last one. You know, I — perhaps it is. We may — we may not have another one. You know, over the many years that I’ve met with you every Tuesday or whenever we’ve had the stakeouts, it would be unfair for me to say I look forward to these stakeouts because they don’t — but you know, I have a great — I have abiding faith in the work that you do,” he said.
“And right now, your work is more important than ever. With what happened in the election, there’s great efforts to have fake news and to have tweets determine what happens with the news of the day. You have an extremely difficult responsibility now and it’s more important than ever. I think taking tough questions from journalists is part of the job and I wish you all the very best,” Reid added.
The retiring senator, who served in the House beginning in 1983 and the upper chamber in 1987, recalled that Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the incoming Senate Democratic leader, “were there in the Congress when I was there.”
“And we can look back with pleasure at those days when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan would have a drink after work and sing songs and reflect upon even better times as they saw them,” he said. “But then came the Gingrich era and it poisoned the Congress very, very much.”
“So, I’ve seen over these years the times change in many different ways. I’m going to give a little speech in a couple of days talking about all this. I’m not going to berate the Senate. I love the Senate. I’m terribly disappointed that money has taken such a big role in what happens in government today with the elections as they are.”
But, Reid added, “it doesn’t do any good to look back.”
“We all have to look forward. And as I’ve told these three valiant people who’ve been with me for so long on my little leadership team, that’s what they have to do. They have to look forward,” he continued. “And I as each one of them today enunciated very clearly that they’re not going to be shrinking violets. They’re going to push forward on a role that the American people will be proud of. And I have no doubt that’s true.”
Asked if he has any regrets, Reid replied, “No. I was never running to be popular with the Republicans.”
“I’ve had a job to do with President Obama. I’ve done the best that I can and I don’t have any regrets whatsoever about my efforts to push forward a Democratic agenda,” he added.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a Tuesday media availability with GOP leaders that Democrats will spend the week painting “a rosy picture” of Reid’s tenure.
“For me, his time here has been one of a failure, obstruction and gridlock, and all you need to do is look at what happened when as majority leader, he wouldn’t even allow members of his own party to offer amendments on the floor of the United States Senate, which is what drove him from majority leader to minority leader,” Barrasso said.