Retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday reminisced for more than an hour about his life and legacy, capping his farewell address by calling on colleagues to temper their use of the filibuster and to overhaul the campaign finance system.
The Nevada Democrat, who’s stepping down after 34 years in Congress, warned that the filibuster — the use of which has swelled in recent years — could be killed if senators continue to use it to obstruct what were once considered routine nominations and legislation.
“It will be gone first on nominations, and then it will be gone on legislation,” he said. “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.”
In 2013 as majority leader, Reid led a successful effort to curtail the use of the filibuster after Senate Republicans blocked several of President Barack Obama’s nominations to the executive and judicial branches of government. The rules change eliminated the filibuster for all nominees, except for those appointed to serve on the Supreme Court.
Reid, one of the most outspoken critics of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, also predicted dire consequences if Congress is unable to quell the rise of dark money in elections.
“If this doesn’t change and 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,” he said.
Reid’s counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, paid tribute to his chief antagonist over the years. He was one of several Republicans who came to the chamber to watch the farewell address.
“It’s clear that Harry and I have two very different world views, two different ways of doing things and two different sets of legislative priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said. “But through the years, we’ve come to understand some things about one another. And we’ve endeavored to keep our disagreements professional rather than personal.”
Reid insisted that he and McConnell are friends, despite their tooth-and-nail fights as leaders of their respective parties.
“We’re friends. We were there each doing our thing to affect our cause,” Reid said. “That’s what we do here. McConnell and Reid don’t need to be hugging it out every other day.”