Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Farewell Address
Source: Reid.Senate.gov, 12-8-16
“I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do.”
“I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family.”
“What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid gave his farewell address on the Senate floor today. He has served Nevada in the United States Congress for 34 years. Below are his remarks:
The history of Searchlight starts this way – the first paragraph of that book: “Searchlight is like many Nevada towns and cities. It would never have come to be had gold not been discovered. It is situated on rocky, windy and arid terrain without an artesian well or surface water of any kind, the place we call Searchlight was not a gathering spot for Indian or animal.
Searchlight: It is a long ways from Searchlight to the United States Senate. I grew up during World War II in Searchlight. My dad was a miner, hard rock miner, underground miner. But work wasn’t very good in Searchlight. The mines during World War II were especially gone – all over America, but especially in Nevada.
There were a few things that went on after the war, promotions. He would work and sometimes they would pay him. Sometimes bad checks that would bounce. Sometimes they wouldn’t pay him, they would just leave. My mom worked really hard. We had this old Maytag washer. The lines were outside. She worked really hard.
Searchlight was about 250 people then. It had seen its better days. Searchlight was discovered in 1898 – gold was discovered. And for 15 or 18 years, it was a booming, booming town. It was one of the most modern cities in all of Nevada. It had electricity, turn of the century electricity. Telegraph. Telephones.
It had a fire station, fire trucks. It had roads with signs on them designating the name of the street. It had a railroad. When I grew up, that was all gone. Searchlight, as I said, was 250 people.
So you may ask how did my mother work so hard in a town where there was 250 people? We had at that time no mines, but 13 brothels at one time in Searchlight. Thirteen. Not over the time, but one time. The biggest was the El Rey Club. So that tells everyone what wash my mom did, from the casinos and from the brothels. And she worked really hard. She ironed. She washed.
As I look back on my growing up in Searchlight, I never felt during the time I was a boy that I was deprived of anything. I never went hungry. Sometimes we didn’t have, I guess, what my mom wanted, but we were fine. But as I look back, it wasn’t that good, I guess. We had no inside toilet. We had a toilet outside. You had to walk about 50 yards to that. My dad didn’t want it close to the house.
And we had a good time, even with that. My poor mother, what a wonderful woman she was. My younger brother and I, sometimes just to be funny, she would go to the toilet, she had tin walls, tin, it was made out of tin, and we would throw rocks at that. “Let me out,” she would say. That doesn’t sound like much fun, but it was fun at the time.
When I started elementary school, there was one teacher for grades 1-4 and then another teacher for grades 5-8, but when I got to fifth grade, there was not enough – weren’t enough students for two teachers, so one teacher taught all eight grades. I learned at that time in that little school that you can really learn.
I have never, ever forgotten a woman by the name of Mrs. Pickard. I can still see her, those glasses, just a stereotype, spinster teacher, but she was a teacher. She taught me that education was good, to learn is good. And when I graduated – we had a large graduating class, six kids – and the presiding officer from Nevada, you should feel good about me. I graduated in the top third of my class.
My parents did the best they could. My dad never graduated from eighth grade. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. In Searchlight, it is probably no surprise to anyone, there was never , ever a church service in searchlight that I can ever remember. There was no church. No preachers, no nothing, nothing regarding religion. That’s how I was raised.
My brother and I were born in our house. There was no hospital. That had long since gone. I didn’t go to a dentist until I was 14 years old. But I was fortunate. I was born with nice teeth, especially on the top. The bottoms aren’t so good, but rarely, rarely have I had a cavity of any kind. Just fortunate in that regard. We didn’t go to doctors. It was a rare, rare occasion. There was no one to go to. I can remember my father having such a bad tooth ache, I watched him pull a tooth with a pair of pliers.
My mother was hit in the face with a softball when she was a young woman in Searchlight, and it ruined her teeth. As I was growing up, I saw her teeth disappear. A few, few less and finally no teeth. My mom had no teeth. My brother was riding his bicycle and slid on the dirt, broke his leg. He never went to the doctor. I can remember as if it were ten minutes ago my brother Larry on that bed. Couldn’t touch the bed, it hurt him so much, but it healed. The bottom part of one leg is bent, but it healed.
I can remember a TB wagon came through Searchlight, the only time I remember. People had tuberculosis. We had miners had silicosis, some of them, my dad included. My mother had one of those tests. She went on the big truck and had her chest x-rayed, I guess that’s what they did. a few weeks later, she got a postcard and said her test was positive, she should go see a doctor. Never went to see a doctor. I worried about that so much. I can’t imagine how my mother must have felt, but obviously it was a false positive, but think about that. Never went to the doctor, but told you have tuberculosis.
As I learned more about my dad, I know how important health care would have been for him. To be able to see somebody, to try to explain more about my dad so he could understand him a little better. I’m sure I haven’t done all the good in life I could do, but I am here to tell everyone, there is one thing I did in my life that I’m so proud of, and I will always be — I hope I’m not boasting. If I am, I’m sorry.
I worked long hours in a service station. There was no high school in Searchlight, so I went to school in Henderson, Nevada. And I worked in a standard station. I worked really hard and long hours. I took all the hours they would give me. I saved up enough money, I had $250. I was going to buy my mother some teeth. and I went to a man, he was a bigshot. They named a school after him. He was on the school board in Las Vegas. He married this beautiful woman from Searchlight. I went to him. I never met him before. I told him who I am. His name was J.D. Smith.
I said I wanted to buy my mother some teeth. He said I don’t do credit here. He insulted me. So I went to Dr. Marshall of Henderson and bought my mother some teeth. It changed my mother’s life. My mother had teeth.
So my parents lived in Searchlight until they both died. I think a number of people saw them. My staff at least knows my dad killed himself. I can remember that day so plainly. I had been out — I spent two hours with Muhammad Ali, him and I, one of his handlers and one of my staff. It was so – for me who has always been – wanted to be an athlete, wannabe, that was great. Some of you know I fought, but that was — he was in a different world than me. But he was nice. He was generous with his time and so much fun. He said let’s go cause some trouble out here. He kicked the walls and yelled and screamed, and I was happy.
I walked to my car, got to my office, and my receptionist Joanie said to me, Mr. Reid, your mom’s on the phone. And I talked to my mother all the time, many, many times a week. She said, your pop shot himself. So she lived in Searchlight. It took me an hour, hour and a half to get out there. I can still remember seeing my dad on that bed, and I was so sad because my dad never had a chance. He was depressed always. He was reclusive. You know, I did things. He never came to anything that I did. I never felt bad that he didn’t because I knew my dad. My mom came to everything that she could. I felt bad about that. I’ll talk a little more about suicide in a little bit. But I think everyone can understand a little bit of why I have been such an avid supporter of Obamacare, health care.
So I was ashamed, embarrassed about Searchlight. When I went to college, was in was in high school, law school, I just didn’t want to talk about Searchlight. I was kind of embarrassed about it. And, you know, it was kind of a crummy place. I didn’t show people pictures of my home.
So, many years later, I was a young man and I was in government, and Alex Haley, the famous writer who wrote the book “Roots” was a speaker at the University of Nevada Foundation dinner in Reno. He gave this speech and it was stunning. It was so good, and basically what he said to everyone there – and he directed, I thought, his remarks to me. Of course he didn’t. But he said be proud of who you are. You can’t escape who you are. And I walked out of that event that night a different person, a new man. From that day forward, I was from Searchlight. When I got out of law school, I bought little pieces of property. So I had contacts there. My parents lived there, so I became Harry Reid, the guy from Searchlight.
So one thing people ask me all the time, you’ve done okay. Tell me what you think are the important aspects – especially young people ask all the time. Young is a relative term. What would you recommend? What do you think was your way to success? And I tell them all the same thing. I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do. And I believe that’s a lesson for everyone.
The little boy from Searchlight has been able to be part of a changing state of Nevada. I’m grateful I’ve been part of that change.
When I graduated from law school, the population of Nevada was less than 300,000 people. The state of Nevada is now three million people. It grew from one member of Congress from 1864 to ‘82 – one, that’s all we had. Now we have four. During my 34 years in Congress, I’ve seen the country change. I’ve seen Nevada change. The changes in the country and Nevada have been for the better.
Now I’m going to spend a little bit of time talking about some of the things that I’ve been able to do as a member of the United States Senate. I know it’s long and somewhat tedious, but I’ve been here a long time, so please be patient.
My legislation. Reducing tax burdens. I’m sorry he’s not here – David Pryor of Arkansas. David Pryor, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any of my very, very capable friends but the best legislator I’ve ever served with in state government, federal government, is David Pryor. He was good. Not a big speecher. But he was good at getting things done. The first speech I gave as a member of the Senate was way back there where Cory Booker is right now. And I gave a speech. I tried to do it in the House. It was called a Taxpayers Bill of Rights. I couldn’t get Jake Pickle, the chair of that subcommittee on Ways and Means, even to talk to me in the House. But I came over here and I gave that speech, and David Pryor was presiding. He was the subcommittee chair of the committee dealing with that that, in Finance. Chuck Grassley was also listening to my speech. Pryor sent me a note when I finished and said I want to help you with this. Grassley did the same thing. So my first speech led to the passage of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, with the help of David Pryor and Chuck Grassley. It was landmark legislation. It put the taxpayer on more equal footing with the tax collector. Everybody liked that so much, we’ve done two iterations of it since then to make it even stronger.
Source tax I’m sure is just a boring thing to everybody, but it wasn’t boring to people that came from California and tried to retire someplace else. The State of California was merciless in going after people. They had the law on their side, they thought. If you worked in California, it didn’t matter where you went, they would go after you for your pensions, is what it amounted to. And I tried for 15 years to get that changed, and I got it changed. No longer can California, all due respect to Feinstein and Boxer, can they do that. They can’t do that anymore. If you retire in California and move someplace else, they can’t tax that money.
Mortgage tax relief, we all participated in that. I initiated it, too, when the collapse of Wall Street took place, and that was a big help.
Tax incentives for solar and geothermal, really important. I’ll talk a little more about that. Payment in lieu of taxes, all my Western senators will appreciate that. It was just four years ago, five years ago that we were able to fully fund PILT, payment in lieu of taxes. I worked very hard with Baucus, with Wyden, and we did things to take care of some issues that they had. That’s the first time it had ever been fully funded.
Cancellation indebtedness. That’s a buzzword for people that understand taxes a little better. But what happened is everything collapsed. They would try to get out of a debt they had. They couldn’t because the IRS would tax them at the value of it when they bought it. When things didn’t work, it was unfair. And we got that changed. That was in the stimulus bill. We got that changed.
Let’s talk about the economy a little bit. I know some of my Democrat colleagues say, “Why did you do that?” Here’s what I did. I worked with Republican Senator Don Nickles from Oklahoma. There was a Republican president, okay? The worm turns, but Don and I talked about this. We knew that the administrations would change and it would affect every president, Democrat and Republican. It was called the Congressional Review Act. What that said is the president promulgates a regulation, Congress has a chance to look it over to see if it’s too burdensome, too costly, too unfair. And we’ve done that quite a few times. And that was because of Reid and Nickles. That was legislation that I did, and it was great when we had Republican presidents. Not so great when we had Democratic presidents. But it was fair.
One of the things that’s been so important to the state of Nevada has been a man by the name of Kirk Kerkorian, a non-educated man. He flew over the North Atlantic during World War II, ferrying planes to England at great personal sacrifice to himself. But he had, as I said, no education. His parents were from Armenia. He became one of America’s legendary entrepreneurs. And I many, many years ago as a young, young lawyer met him and for many, many years helped him and especially his brother with their legal issues. He’s the man that helped create Las Vegas the way it is, and he did something unique. He decided he was going to build something on the Las Vegas strip called City Center. And for those of you who go to Nevada, look at that sometime. You could be in the middle of New York City. You would think you were there. This is a magnificent operation.
Well, it started before the recession. They were desperate to get it finished. More than 10,000 people worked on that project. I would drive by there and count the cranes. Twenty-five, thirty cranes at one time there at work. Well, I interceded in that. I did some things that probably a lot of people wouldn’t do, but I did it because I thought it was very important that operation didn’t shut down. Kerkorian had already put billions of dollars of his own money in it. They had an investor from one of the Middle Eastern countries. I did a lot of things that I say a lot of you wouldn’t do, but I did it. I saved that project. I’m not going into detail, but I called people that I would doubt that any of you would call. I called bank presidents. I called leaders of countries. And anyway, it’s completed now. I take some credit for that.
The stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we got that done. Yesterday the presiding officer was the senior senator from Maine. Oh, she was so helpful. I hope it doesn’t get her into trouble to boast about her today. But she and her colleague from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter — we only had 58 votes as Democrats and they were the difference — we were able to get that passed only because of them. It was so good for our country.
Obama, the first two months after having been elected, the country lost 800,000 jobs. Can you imagine that? A month. Because of the stimulus bill, we were able to reverse that. We did a lot of wonderfully good things on that that were important for the country. Travel Promotion Act — Amy Klobuchar is here. She worked so hard in helping get that done. It promoted travel to get foreigners to come here, to come to America. It worked out so well. Seven different clotures I had to file on that to get it done but we got it done finally. It’s been remarkably good for America. Other countries, you’ll see them on TV. They’re always advertising about come visit Australia, come visit the Bahamas, come visit England, come visit every place. Now there’s advertising going on around the world: come visit America. Now everyone knows that Las Vegas gets its, more than its share probably of visitors, but it was good for Nevada but it was also good for the country.
Nevada test site workers. We were the Cold War veterans in Nevada. That was a big project. We had 11,000, 12,000 workers there at one time. We had above-ground tests, I can remember seeing them. We were a long ways away in Searchlight, but you would see that flash. You wouldn’t always feel it – sometimes it would bounce over Searchlight. But it was really a big deal. We didn’t know it was making people sick, but they were good enough to make sure the tests didn’t go off when the wind was blowing toward Las Vegas. It blew up toward Utah, and Utah suffered terribly bad because those were above-ground tests. So we worked to make sure the test site workers, who were part of the reason for winning the Cold War, because it was dangerous what they did. We passed that. A number of different segments to get it done, so we’ve done a lot to protect people.
Nevada transportation. McCarran Airport Field. I’ve tried for years to get the name taken off. He was a Democratic Senator from Nevada who was an awful man. I tried to get his name off of that. It didn’t work. I tried to get J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building, that didn’t work. We had a vote here. I can still remember how mad Orrin Hatch was when I did that. Bunt anyway, everyone had to vote on it. I think made a mistake. I tried to get it named after Bobby Kennedy. That was the mistake I made, I think.
Anyway, McCarran Airport. It’s, I think, the fifth busiest airport in America now. We’ve gotten money for a new air traffic control center, it’s one of the largest structures in the Western United States. We’ve done a good job taking care of McCarran. All kinds of construction funding for runways and rehabilitation of runways. In the stimulus bill, one of the last things we put in that was the bonding capacity that allowed McCarran Field to build a big new terminal. More than $1 billion we got in that legislation, and it was really important during the recession to have all those workers. There are thousands and thousands of them on that new terminal which is now completed.
Reno. I was also able to direct money toward getting a new traffic control center there, a new control tower. We’ve done all the construction funding, a lot of stuff, good stuff for the airport in Reno.
So I feel good about what we’ve done to help Nevada transportation. Not the least of which everybody is, billions of dollars in directed spending for roads and highways in Nevada. And it’s really made a change in Northern Nevada and in Southern Nevada. It’s important for us to be able to deal with people in Las Vegas, so we made deals with the California Department of Transportation and we participated in big construction projects that took place in California – Barstow and San Bernardino. We did that because it would make it easier for people to come to Las Vegas. I wasn’t just giving money to Las Vegas. We also did it of course for California because it helped us.
Health care. The Affordable Care Act, I’ve talked about that a little bit. It would have been wonderful if we had something like that around to help my family when we were growing up. I worked hard to help a number of you on the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Orrin Hatch was certainly involved in that.
Just like I had trouble coming to grips with my home in Searchlight, I had trouble coming to grips with the fact that my dad killed himself. I was like most — we are called victims. We shouldn’t be, but that’s what we’re called. This year about 32,000 people will kill themselves in America.
That doesn’t count the hunting accidents which are really suicides, the car accidents which are really suicides. So i couldn’t get my arms around the suicide.
Republican Senator Cohen from Maine was the chairman of the Aging Committee upon which I served, and we were doing a hearing on senior depression. And Mike Wallace came, the famous journalist, and here’s what he said: “I have wanted to die for years. I would take the most dangerous assignments I could hoping I couldn’t come back.” He said, “You know, I’m okay now, though. I want to live forever.” He said, “I take a pill once in a while, I see a doctor once in a while and I’m good. I’m okay.” And I said for the first time publicly, “Mr. Chairman, my dad killed himself. That was a long time ago. But I think it would be extremely important for this committee to hold a hearing on senior suicide.” Because we’ve learned; since my focusing on suicide, we’ve done some good things as members of Congress.
We’ve directed spending to study why people kill themselves, because we don’t know for sure. Isn’t it interesting that most of the suicides take place in the western part of the United States. You would think it would be in dark places like Maine and Vermont where it’s so dark and cold, but no it’s in the bright sunshine of the West. So we’re learning a lot more and that has been so good to me as a person and we have now funded projects around America where there are suicide prevention programs that are extremely important.
There are suicide victims’ programs where people get together after someone, a loved one, kills themselves. So that’s something that I’m glad I worked on.
Finally, health care.
Twenty-four years ago, one of my friends from Las Vegas called me, Sandy Jolly, and she said, “I would like you to look at this film I’m going to send you. She said, and, I want you to watch it. And what it showed was a beautiful little girl in Africa in a party dress. It was white. She looked so pretty. You know, it was a party. And suddenly two men grabbed her, spread her legs apart and cut out her genitals – right there with a razor blade. I thought, man, that’s hard to comprehend. And my staff said, now, it’s something you shouldn’t deal with – it should be for a woman. But I went ahead and I did something about it.
We haven’t done as much as we should do, and I hope that we have people who will pick up this issue. I had a meeting last Friday, the biggest audience I’ve ever had, just people – they were there. There was a conference on female genital mutilation. I say that word because that’s what it is. Millions of little girls have been “cut” – that’s what it’s called, “cut.” Last year, no one knows for sure, but probably 250,000 little girls were cut. And last Friday, I had 200 people there. I said, this is wonderful. I said, I’ve had 10 people a couple times, but two or three of the people were lost and didn’t really want to be there.
It’s really important that we do something about it. We have some laws now – it’s against the law in the United States. You can’t go away for purposes of being cut. But there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Our government has done almost nothing.
I’ll spend a little bit of time on the environment. You know, I’ve been the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee twice. Not for very long. I gave it up once because I had to because of control of Congress. And one time I gave it way, as some will remember. I gave it away. I gave away my chairmanship and my committee spot to Jim Jeffords. And I loved that committee. I’ve been involved in the environment and energy things since I came here.
The state of Nevada is 87 percent owned by the federal government. Eighty-seven percent of the state of Nevada is federal land. The rest, 13 percent, is private land. Of course I should be concerned about it.
Yucca Mountain, I’m not going to get into a long dissertation about that. But because we we’ve spent about $8 billion there so far, maybe more. It’s gone. Someone asked me the other day, you know, the Republicans are in power now. They’re going to come back to Yucca Mountain. I said, well, they better bring a checkbook with them. Because there’s nothing there now. They’d have to start all over again. They spent more than $1 billion digging that tunnel.
That’s ground up for scrap metal. There’s nothing there. You could probably get it going again now for $10-12 billion. So if you have a way to pay for it, good luck. If you were smart, what you would do is leave it where it is in diecast storage containers, which is proven to be extremely safe and effective. And that is what should be done.
Renewable energy transmission. The stimulus bill said one of the problems we have with energy is that we don’t have a way of transmitting electricity to where it should go. We all talk about all this renewable energy which is produced in places where there aren’t lot of people, but you can’t get any place where there are a lot of people. That’s been changed with the stimulus bill.
For example, in Nevada we have One Nevada Transmission Line, it’s called, and that for the first time in the state of Nevada, we can move power from the north to the south of Nevada. Part of that legislation is under way now. That line will also goes up into the northwest. That was good legislation.
I’ve had clean energy summits for many, many years. We bring in national leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to focus attention on the problems America has with energy. The Clintons have come, Obama has been there, we’ve had Republicans, and here’s one that came and did a great job: Tom Donohue. Everybody knows him. We Democrats know him, for sure. The head of the Chamber of Commerce.
Coal. I have no problem with coal. I’ve helped fund clean coal technology. One of my spending was Tracy Power Plant outside of Reno that was a clean coal plant. Except it didn’t work, so they had to go to another type of fuel. So I have nothing against coal.
However, I was upset about this: Nevada is very pristine. I have told a couple people this. People don’t understand Nevada. Everybody thinks it is the deserts of Las Vegas, but it is not. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the union with the exception of Alaska. We have 314 separate mountain ranges. We have a mountain 14,000 feet high, we have 32 mountains over 11,000 feet high. It’s a very mountainous state.
So when I learned by reading the papers that we were going to have power companies come to Nevada, one of the most pristine areas, and they were going to build three or four power plants. I said no. My staff said, you can’t do that. You’re up for reelection. They’ll destroy you. Well, they tried. But I won. They lost. There are going to be no coal-fired plants in Nevada. There’s two left. One of them is going out of business in a matter of two weeks. And the other is on its way out, probably within a year.
We’re not going to have coal-fired plants in Nevada, but we do have lots and lots of renewable energy. I’ve worked especially with John Ensign when he was here, on major land bills and we were able to do a lot of good things. Because of him – he was a real conservative guy – I had to make deals to make some of Nevada’s 87 percent of public land private. I was able to do that. And he was able to, with me, to create more wilderness. We worked together to get that done.
I created the first national park in Nevada. It’s wonderful. Everything within the Great Basin is in that park. Hard to believe now, but in Nevada we have a glacier. We have the oldest living things in the world on that mountain. Those old, old pine trees. They’re there. They’re 6,000 or 7,000 years old. They’re there. A beautiful, beautiful park. Basin and
Range National Monument: I worked with President Obama on this, more than 700,000 acres in a remote place of Nevada. It’s a place where John Muir came as a young man, camping there and talking about how beautiful it is in his diary. Now everyone can see that.
Part of that wonderful place is a man who is a world-famous artist. The name is Heiser, Michael Heiser. He worked for 40 years building this monument in the middle of nowhere. It is called “City.” It is the most magnificent thing. We don’t have roads coming there yet, but we will pretty soon. But that’s done.
Tule Springs: Right in the middle of the growth in Las Vegas. People came to me one time and said, we have this place in Nevada where we have the oldest and most abundant source of fossils anyplace in America. To make a long story short, that’s now a national monument.
The state of Nevada didn’t have the resources to take on the oil companies the airlines. So I got Bill Bradley, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, to hold a hearing. It was so important we did that. Because we determined the oil was coming from broken oil lines, fuel lines going to the Reno airport. Had we not done something, it would have been awful. It was declared an emergency Superfund site. Immediately people moved in and took care of that. Now that – I am giving a quick look at it. That gravel pit is now a beautiful lake. It’s called the Sparks Marina. There’s condos, apartments, businesses all around that. People on boats – it’s wonderful. It all started out as a gravel pit. I appreciate Bill Bradley’s great work on that.
There are people in this chamber that are much better than I on national security, and I know that. But I worked hard. We have been a dumping ground for all things in the military. We have had Nellis Air Force Base. It’s the finest fighter training facility in the world. If you want to fly jet airplanes, you must train in Nevada. We have a great big gun range. The Navy does the same thing with their naval training center. I frankly have gotten tens and tens of millions of dollars for both those operations because they’ve been important.
Also, everyone, we hear a lot about drones. Every drone attack that takes place in the world takes place 30 miles outside Las Vegas at the air force base. It used to be called Indian Springs. That’s where they all take place. We have all these great servicemen, mostly airmen who take care of that. They protect us around the world.
Barbara Mikulski is here. She traveled as we were new senators. She was in a position to help me on appropriations. She said this facility in Reno was awful and I am going to do something about it, and she did. Very quickly. We renovated that place. It was so bad, the old VA hospital that you couldn’t get the new hospital equipment down the halls it was too small. Senator Mikulski, I said before how much I appreciated that. She took care of that.
I have had good fortune that two VA hospitals I asked money for and they were built. We had one that was an experiment, which was a joint venture with the Veterans Administration and the Air Force and it worked great except we had the Middle East war. The veterans were given – go someplace else. So we don’t have that anymore. But we have a huge new one that’s built. The newest and the best. It’s not fully — doesn’t have all the equipment they need but has been functioning now for a couple of years and has been very good. I feel very proud of that.
The Nevada test site is part of the national security. I’ve done everything I can to make sure that facility is taken care of and it is. We have a lot of experiments going on there all the time. If you – we have all these what we call fuel spills, all the testing takes place there.
Finally with the military, here’s one of the best things I ever did. As I heard Barbara Mikulski talk about yesterday, let us know what your constituents say. A group of veterans came a few feet from here to talk to me a few years ago. They said, you know, senator, this is somewhat strange. I’m disabled from the military. I’m also retired from the military. I can’t draw both benefits. What are you talking about? He said I can’t. If you retire from the Forest Service, you can get your pension from the Forest Service, wherever it is and also get your disability but not if it’s both military. We changed that. Now, if you have a disability and you have a — you retired from the military, you can draw both. That took a long time but we got it done. It’s not perfect but it is 80 percent all done.
Judiciary. You know I talked earlier this morning I’m a lawyer and I’m proud of the fact I was a trial lawyer. I hear senators talk all the time about the judicial selection committees they have, pick who they’re going to have on the federal bench and I’m glad they do that, because I also have a judicial selection committee. You know who’s on that committee? Me. No one else is on it. I’ve selected all my judges. I’m the committee. And I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to do. One of the things I did in the House – I named a federal building in Las Vegas named after this very famous family of lawyers, two federal judges, a district attorney, a state court judge. A wonderful family called the folly family. So I go back for the 10th anniversary and I look up there and nothing but white men.
I thought to myself, gee, I hope someday I can change that. And as fortune would have it, Lloyd George decided to take senior status and I had a chance to do something about that. And I have done – I have sent names to the President. I have selected far more judges, myself and the entire history of the State of Nevada, other senators.
So what I did with the first one, well, I want to get a woman. We don’t have a black on the court either. Why not get a black and a woman and that’s what I did. Oh was I criticized. Oh, she didn’t have enough experience. You could have found somebody better. She was a dynamo. People loved this woman. She was so good, she was so good, that she’s now on the 9th Circuit, and she quickly went there. Make a long story short, she’s been part of the talk about who could go on the Supreme Court. This is a wonderful woman named Johnnie Rawlinson.
I put Roger Hunt, a great trial lawyer, on there. Kent Dawson, one of my predecessors, city attorney. David Hagen, a wonderful trial lawyer out of Reno, I put him on the bench.
Brian Sandoval I selected as a federal judge, and he was a good federal judge. Things were going great until he ran against my son for governor. And I wish he hadn’t because my son would now be governor. But he’s my friend and we have family accepted that. But he was a Hispanic, first Hispanic on the bench.
I appointed another Hispanic, Gloria Navarro, parents born in Cuba. She’s a woman. She’s now the chief judge. Miranda Du. How about that? A woman born in Vietnam is now on the bench in Nevada. How about that? Miranda Du. Born in Vietnam, came when she was 11 years old to Alabama. Jennifer Dorsey, a woman. Andrew Gordon, Harvard Law graduate. Richard Boulware, African-American. So, I’ve changed that Nevada bench significantly, federal bench. I’ve had the pleasure of voting for and against all eight members of the Supreme Court that now sit there during my career, every one of them I’ve had a chance to vote.
Education. I’ve worked hard for education in Nevada and I’ve done okay. Desert Research Institute is a unique organization. It’s not helped by the University of Nevada at all. They do it on their own. All Ph.D.’s. They’ve been in existence for 50 years. Some of the most significant research in the world is done there. You know, these super computers, I’ve gotten two of them. You know, and our earthquake center, the best in the world. They have more shake tables than any place in America and people come from all over the world to study what happens with earthquakes.
Biodiversity study. For many years I directed funding to the biodiversity study. It was the best science going on at the time on the environment, studying the Great Basin.
Native Americans in Nevada, we have 26 different tribal organizations. I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do to help Native Americans. And believe me, they haven’t been treated well in Nevada or anyplace else. I’ve led the legislative efforts to make sure that we have water rights taken care of. Settled long-standing claims against the United States. We’ve done the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Reservation, all have been able to develop their water rights and their economies. Pyramid Lake, for example, their money is going to be almost $100 million. Fallon was $60 million. I worked to get two new high schools built and they were so long overdue. Shoshone Claims Distribution Act, it took decades to get it done, we finally got it done. Washoe Tribe. Thanks to President Clinton, we were able to get the Indians who belong up there, the Washoe Tribe, get them right on the lake.
It’s been a dream job of mine to work with the Obama Administration for the last eight years. Being his point man here in the Senate, I gave an extended speech on him yesterday. I want to make it part of the Record and I ask consent to do that, Mr. President, so we don’t have to listen to the same stuff again, but I did do it yesterday. And I also want to ask unanimous consent, I have lots and lots of stuff that I’ve done that I didn’t feel I’d take the time to do. I want to make that part of the record.
Okay, winding down, everybody. I know you’re glad, but it’s been 34 years. I’ve served with 281 different senators during the time I’ve been here. I have such fond memories of so, so many, so, so many. The hilarious Fritz Hollings, the confident Fritz Hollings. I’ve never known a better joke teller — and I hope Al is not mad — than Frank Lautenberg. He could tell stories and I’ve asked him to tell the same stories so many times. I couldn’t tell it but he had one about two wrestlers. I’m not going to repeat it, but he was very, very funny. I’m not going to go through the whole Ted Kennedy list and all that but I’ve had wonderful experiences with my senator friends.
When I came as Democratic senator, there was one woman, Barbara Mikulski. That was it, one woman. I’m very happy now that we have 17 Democratic women and we have four Republican women. And I want to just say, make the record very clear, the Senate is a better place because of women being here. There is no question for many different reasons, but they’ve added so much to the Senate. The only problem we have now, there aren’t enough of them. But we did our best this go around. We got four new Democratic senators.
Leaders. I’ve already talked about Senator McConnell. It’s been my good fortune to have been able to serve with such good leaders like Robert Byrd. I don’t know if it’s true. I accept it because that’s what I want to believe. A number of people told me I was his pet. As I said, I don’t know if I was or not but he sure was good to me. George Mitchell, what a wonderful extemporaneous speaker. He was the best. This federal judge, this U.S. attorney, this good man from Maine. Bob Dole. I was a junior Senator and didn’t have a lot of interchange with him when he was a leader, but I have had a lot lately. He calls me in some of the issues he’s working on now.
I can recall one of the most moving times in my life Daniel Inouye was lying in state in the Rotunda. He called me and asked me if I would go over there with him. Of course I would. He was in a wheelchair. Somebody pushes him over there and he says stop. There’s a little alcove there. And Bob Dole as hard as it was for him walked over to the crypt where Danny was. He climbed up on the bearer and said, “Danny, I love you.” If that won’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will. I’ll always remember that and Bob Dole.
Trent Lott, he was really a good leader, extremely conservative but extremely pragmatic. We got lots of stuff done. I was Senator Daschle’s point person to get legislation out of this body and we did some really good things. Tom Daschle, he always gave me lots of room to do things. I can remember once I was the whip and he was — I thought he’d been too generous with one of the other senators and I complained. He said look, you’re going to make this whip job whatever you want it to be and I took him at his word and I did. I never left the floor. The Senate opened, I was here. When it closed, I was here.
Bill Frist, a fine human being. I really cared about him a lot. He wasn’t an experienced legislator but that’s okay. He was an experienced human being. I liked him a lot. I already talked about Mitch.
Diversity, we don’t have enough diversity in the Senate but I do take credit for creating a diversity office with Democrats. Senator Schumer has indicated he’s going to continue that and I’m very happy he’s going to do that. We don’t have enough diversity, I repeat.
I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. But I have to mention Durbin. He and I came here together 34 years ago. He has been so supportive of me. He’s been my cousin Jeff. You care if I tell the story?
My brother lives in Searchlight still. He’s an interesting man. He had a girlfriend there that was married. And he brought her home one night and her husband or boyfriend – or whatever it was – jumped out of the tree on my brother’s back. They had a fight and my brother won. So, a couple of weeks later he’s at a 49’er club, a bar, a little place in Searchlight, and he’s having a beer, whatever he drinks. He looks around and he sees a guy that he beat up. But the guy’s got a couple of people with him. He knew why they were there. They were there to work him over. He said, “Well, what am i going to do?” And just about then a miracle happened – our cousin Jeff walked in. He hadn’t been in Searchlight in a couple of years, but cousin Jeff was known as being a really tough guy. So, Larry said, “Here’s the deal.” Cousin Jeff looked him over, went to the biggest one, grabbed his nose, twisted it as hard as he could and he said, “Do you guys want any part of me or my cousin Larry?” They said no and they left. .
The reason I say that – Durbin is my cousin Jeff. I was in my office watching the floor. McConnell was up there. I was so damned mad. He was talking about stuff. I was mad. I called my office. “Why don’t we have somebody out there saying something.” He said, “Senator, that was transcribed, that was recorded earlier today. We’re out of session.” So Durbin has been my man, my cousin Jeff. Whenever I have a problem, everybody, I call Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin can talk about anything that sounds good.
Chuck Schumer. My kids said make sure you tell everybody about how smart you think he is. Okay. I’m going to do it. One day I said to Schumer – we hadn’t known each other a long time, but I said, “How the hell did you ever get in Harvard?” He said, “It helped I had a perfect SAT. and a perfect LSAT. That’s true – it’s not just talk. He did. He is a brilliant man. He’s got a big heart and he works extremely hard, and he has been so good to me. We worked together. He took a job he didn’t want, chair of the DSCC twice, but it worked out great. We were able to get the majority. So I will always have great affection for him, and I wish him well in being my replacement. I’m confident he will do a good job. He won’t be me, but he’ll do a good job.
My staff, we checked yesterday, my staff did. It’s hard to comprehend how many people I’ve had work for me over 34 years. Almost 3,000, everybody. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family. Chiefs of staff, I haven’t had that many, surprisingly, over 34 years. Claude Zobell, Rey Martinez, Susan McCue, Gary Myrick, David Krone, Drew Willison and of course David McCallum, who has done so much to make sure I didn’t overspend things. And my utility man, Bill Dauster. He can catch, pitch, play any position on the field. He’s been great for me. I appreciate Bill’s work very much.
Thank you, Adelle, because I would be so embarrassed if I didn’t say something about Patty Murray. She has been part of this leadership team I have had. You know, we have never had anything like this before in the Senate. Leaders prior to me, they did it all on their own. But I have had these three wonderful human beings helping me for all these years.
We meet every Monday night, get set up for the caucus on Tuesday, for the leadership meeting on Tuesday. So Patty, you and Rob, I just care so much about, and I want you to know how I appreciate your loyalty, your hard work. You’ve taken some jobs that you didn’t want to take. That budget job, oh that super – whatever the hell it was called. It was awful. I don’t know how long she’s going to live, but that took a few years off her life. But you and Rob have been great. Loretta is my friend. Iris I love. So thank you very much, you guys.
I’ve told everyone on my staff, with rare exception, you represent me. If you’re on the phone, when you answer that phone, you’re representing me. You are as if you are Harry Reid on that phone. I say the same to those who speak, write and advocate for me. They represent me, and they have done so well. They have helped me in good times and bad times.
What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate. I don’t need to dwell on that. I love the Senate. I care about it so very, very much. I’ve enjoyed Congress for 34 years. I have, as the leader here in the Senate, I have had such joy and times of oh, wow, what are we going to do now. That’s what these jobs are like. They are so exhilarating until oh, man, something happens and I think all of you have done like I have just said, wow, what are we going to do now? The Senate has changed, some for the good, some for the bad.
I want to say this, though. It isn’t the same as when I first came here. There’s change in everything. The biggest change has been the use of the filibuster. I do hope my colleagues are able to temper the use of the filibuster. Otherwise it will be gone. It will be gone first on nominations and then it will be gone on legislation. This is something you have to work on together. Because if you continue to use it the way it’s been used recently, it’s going to really affect this institution a lot.
Something has to be done about the outrageous amount of money from sources that are dark, unknown, now involved in our federal elections. The Citizens United case in January, 2010 – if this doesn’t change, if we don’t do something about this vast money coming into our elections, in a couple more election cycles, we’re going to be just like Russia. We’re going to have a plutocracy, a few rich guys telling our leader what to do.
Leonard Cohen, who recently died, one of America’s great music geniuses, recently died, as I said. In one of his songs is called “Anthem.” he says it all: “There’s a crack, a crack in everything, there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” That’s what he said. And I believe there are cracks in what’s happening with the huge amount of money currently in federal elections and excessive partisanship.
The cracks are the American people don’t like it. They don’t like this money, they don’t like the partisanship. So there are cracks. There are cracks, I repeat, because the American people are complaining big time about the excessive use of money and objecting to the partisanship. That’s the crack and that’s how the light’s going to get in. That’s how America has the opportunity to become a better place where money will not control our political system, nor will partisanship.
So just a little bit of advice to my colleagues, it’s worked okay for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Elko , a really conservative place in Nevada 400 miles from Las Vegas. If a question is asked in Elko of me, I give the same answer there as i give in Las Vegas. We should all do that.
The people in Nevada have never had to worry how I stand on an issue. I tell them how I feel, and that’s why I have never had any big bang elections. But people at least know how I stand. People who don’t necessarily like how I vote and what I talk about, at least they know how I feel. I think that’s good advice for everybody. At least that’s worked well for me, I hope. ‘But what’s your formula for success? What do you recommend?’ And I tell them the same thing about working hard. Of course that’s important. Of course it’s important, but also stay true to who you are, your roots.
Now, my social life, my time in Washington has been different than many. I’m not saying it is better, but it’s been different. Every year there are galas: The White House Correspondents Dinner, The Gridiron Club Dinner, Radio and Correspondents Dinner, Alfalfa Club. So, during my 34 years in Congress, there have been 135 or 136 of these. I attended one of them. For me, that was enough. I have attended one Congressional Picnic in 34 years. That was because my son Key had a girlfriend and he wanted to impress her, and I guess he did because they’re married. But one was enough for me. I’ve attended one state dinner. That’s because I had a son who spent two years in Argentina and wanted to meet the president of Argentina. I did that for my son Rory. But one was enough. I have never been to another one. I have never been to a White House Congressional Ball like the one that’s going to be held tonight. I guess I’m inquisitive of how it would be, but I don’t want to go. I’ve seen one World Series. That was enough. I’ve been to one Super Bowl. That was plenty. I’ve flown once in an F-18 and that was, that was enough. So I’ve gone over the years to hundreds of fundraisers for my friends and colleagues, but everyone has to acknowledge I can get in and out of those pretty quick.
So let me talk about the press a little bit and their responsibility as I see it. We’re entering a new gilded age. It has never been more important to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what is fake. We have lawmakers pushing for tax cuts for billionaires and calling it populism. We have media outlets pushing conspiracy theories disguised as news. Separating real from fake has never been more important. And I wish, I have met him, but I wish I could sit down and talk to him sometime because I so admire Pope Francis. Here’s what he said yesterday: “The media that focuses on scandals and spread fake news to smear politicians risk becoming like people who have a morbid fascination with excrement.” That’s what Pope Francis said. He added that using communication for this rather than educating the public amounted to a sin. Well, he can categorize sin, I can’t, but I agree with him on what he just said. I acknowledge the importance of the press. I admire what you do and understand the challenges ahead of you. But be vigilant because you have as much to do with our democracy as any branch of government. This is best understood by listening to what George Orwell had to say a long time ago, and I quote: “Freedom of the press if it means anything at all means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” So press, criticize and oppose, please do that.
This really is the end of my speech. I have five children, Lana, Rory, Leif, Josh and Key. They have been role models for me and for Landra. They were role models. We learned from them when they were young and we are still learn from them. We appreciate the exemplary lives they have lived. I am confident, hopeful and determined to make sure that they understand how much affection, love and admiration I have for each of them, for their wonderful spouses and our 19 grandchildren.
Okay. Here goes. Whatever success I had in my educational life, my life as a lawyer, my life as a politician, including my time in Congress, is directly attributable to Landra, my wife. We met when Landra was a sophomore in high school and I was a junior. That was more than six decades ago. We married at age 19. As I’ve said, we have five children. We have wonderful 19 grandchildren. She has been the being of my existence, in my personal life and my public life. Disraeli, the great prime minister said in 1837: “The magic of first love is that it never ends.” I believe that. She’s my first love. It will never end. Landra and I have talked and we understand we will have a different life. We have said and we believe that we’re not going to dwell on the past. We’ll be involved in the past any way we need to be, but we’re going to look to the future.
I wish everyone the best. I’m sorry I talked so long. I usually don’t do that. I thank everyone for listening to my speech. I appreciate my wonderful family being here, my friends, my staff and each of you. Thank you for your friendship and support over the years.