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Former Sen. Harry Reid still has a few punches left

Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

LAS VEGAS -- Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid retired from Congress back at the end of 2016, but the old boxer still has a few punches left for the institution he served in for 30 years, not to mention the New York Yankees.

The 79-year-old Nevada Democrat met with CQ Roll Call in his office off the casino floor at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip last week to talk his health, politics and a little baseball.

"I got sick. Had a little cancer in my pancreas. Had the surgery, that worked out fine -- I mean, as well as it could," Reid said. "But what hurt me was the chemo. It messed up my back. I damaged five of my vertebrae."

Pancreatic cancer is known for being particularly difficult, but since his diagnosis became public in May 2018, Reid has undergone aggressive treatment.

He's no longer traveling much beyond his offices in Las Vegas and his home in suburban Henderson, he said, but he's still in touch with some of his former Senate colleagues, including current Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama.

"I'd love to go to Washington and visit some of my friends, but with (the) wheelchair ... it's just not very easy," he said.


"I traveled so much during my congressional days, traveled the world, and back and forth to Nevada hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times, so frankly, I don't miss it that much," Reid said. "I love my home and family and my friends here. For 34 years -- or actually 37 years, counting my school -- I was away from my friends here in Las Vegas."

Reid was in his office at the casino during the week of July Fourth in part because he was working on putting together an event on the role of Muslims in America for the MGM Resorts Public Policy Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he serves as co-chair alongside former Speaker John A. Boehner.

Reid continues to be involved in state Democratic politics, including the 2020 presidential caucus process. Calling himself a "political junkie," Reid said he watched the entirety of the first two nights of Democratic presidential debates.

"I would hope that come 3 { weeks or so from now, that maybe there won't be as many participants. We could have a much better debate if there weren't 10 people each night," Reid said. "Anything to narrow the field a little bit. I don't know if that's going to happen, but it should."


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