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Schumer succeeds Reid; For Nevada, another reminder an era passes

Senator Harry Reid 11/16/16 (MGN Online)

“I am humbled , truly humbled and honored to receive the support of my colleagues to be the next leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer, selected today to be the chamber’s new Minority Leader.

He succeeds Harry Reid, D-Nevada, whose term ends in January.

As Reid’s departure looms, the state he represents wonders what will happen now that it’s most powerful politician is leaving the national scene.

“What Reid always maintained, and I think many folks don’t fully comprehend is this,” said Reid’s former Senate colleague, Democrat Richard Bryan,” we’re still a small state.”

A small state that had an outsized level of influence as Reid rose through the Senate ranks, both as Majority Leader, and then Minority Leader.

“Senator Reid is the kind of office holder that evokes strong feelings,” Bryan told me. “He has supporters and he has virulent critics. The one thing I think that they would all agree on is that he’s been a very effective force for Nevada.”

From protecting public lands, to funding universities, to fighting terrorism, Reid brought home the bacon. His influence, built over 34 years – 4 in the House, and 30 in the Senate – can be seen in tangible ways all over Nevada, from buildings to highways. He built a political machine that, as Democrats stared at disaster last Tuesday night, pulled off a rare feat: Nevada was the only battleground where Democrats swept.

On Monday, in front of his office in the US Capitol, Reid introduced the newest members of the Nevada delegation: Representative-elect Ruben Kihuen, who defeated Republican Cresent Hardy in the 4th District, Representative-elect Jacky Rosen, who defeated Republican Danny Tarkanian in the 3rd District, and his handpicked successor, Catherine Cortez Masto, who beat Republican Joe Heck in the most expensive Senate race in Nevada history. Half of Nevada’s six-member Washington delegation are now freshmen.

“That’s not to suggest that we don’t have a good delegation now,” Bryan said, “but they have far less influence, far less seniority, and that will make a difference particularly as we face a renewal of the effort to place high level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.”

An issue that had been dormant is now reasserting itself, with reports advisors to incoming President-elect Donald Trump want to revive the mothballed project.

“Clearly we do not have Obama to backstop any proposal that emerged from the Congress, which would be subject to his veto, and clearly, Reid no longer being the Minority Leader, his successor will no longer have the same ability to prevent or shape that legislation as Senator Reid would be,” says Bryan.

Reid’s successor, Cortez Masto, is in Washington this week for Senate orientation. She told me by phone there’s much she can do with her Republican counterpart, Senator Dean Heller.

“I’ve already had a conversation with Senator Heller,” Cortez Masto said. “I look forward – we’re going to schedule a meeting in how we can work together.”

Cortez Masto says she’s lobbying for crucial committee assignments, one way she says she can help mitigate Reid’s loss. “I am trying to position myself to get on certain committees that are going to be beneficial for Nevada,” she said.

And, as a freshman Senator, Cortez Masto benefits from Senate rules, unless the majority Republicans change them.

“In the Senate, you have the ability to filibuster, to offer a generally unlimited number of amendments,” said Bryan. “I mean, you can be a force to reckon with because you can derail the train relatively easy because of the Senate parliamentary procedures that are available to the most junior member.”

They are procedures Reid ruled, and used to Nevada’s benefit.

“Harry has done so much for so many years for the state,” says Congresswoman Dina Titus, D-Nevada. “In terms of bringing home resources, protecting us from Yucca Mountain, protecting our public lands, so we’re really going to miss him. It’s nice, though, that we replaced two seats in the House with Democrats, so we’ll be a stronger block here on the House side to do things like fight against Yucca Mountain.”

Titus added, “because you can imagine they’re coming with those kind of issues just as hard as they can once Senator Reid leaves.”

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