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Congressional leaders bid farewell to Reid in Capitol Rotunda ceremony

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
Tim Lenard
Tim Lenard

Congressional leaders and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday paid tribute to the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) with a ceremony in the U.S Capitol Rotunda where he lay in state, a rare honor reserved for exceptional government officials and military officers.

President Joe Biden did not attend the ceremony but came later Wednesday to pay his final respects.

In remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke of Reid's tenacious climb from poverty in Searchlight to becoming one of most influential people in the U.S. Senate. They also noted his compassion and kindness.

Coffin of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) being carried into U.S. Capitol Rotunda Jan 12, 2022. (Suzannah Hoover/Nevada Independent)

“History will remember him as one of the most consequential Senate majority leaders of all time,” said Pelosi, whose tenure overlapped with Reid’s 12 years as the Senate’s top Democrat. “But those of us fortunate enough to know him and love him will remember also his character and compassion, his goodness.”

Schumer, who followed Reid as Senate Democratic leader, called Reid “his dear friend and mentor.” 

The casket of former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where he will lie in state, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

“In short, he was one of the most incredible and generous individuals I've ever met,” Schumer said. ”The sort of person you come across only a handful of times in your life.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) pay respects to the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as his remains lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Reid died Dec. 28 at 82 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was the 37th person to lie in state in the Rotunda. Reid's ceremony followed that of Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), who lay in state on Dec. 9.

Since 1865, most services in the Rotunda have used the catafalque, a coffin platform constructed for the ceremony of President Abraham Lincoln.  

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris pauses at the casket of Sen. Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who died December 28, as it lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

After Schumer and Pelosi delivered their remarks, those in attendance, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), one of Reid's fiercest political foes, filed by Reid's casket to bid farewell.

The Rotunda ceremony comes after several dignitaries, including Biden and former President Barack Obama, attended Reid’s funeral in Las Vegas last weekend.

The casket of Sen. Harry Reid departs the U.S. Capitol after lying in state Jan. 12, 2022. (Suzannah Hoover/The Nevada Independent)

Also among the Rotunda attendees was Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Lee and his family were close to Reid and his family because they were neighbors when Reid served in the House and Lee's dad, Rex Lee, served as President Ronald Reagan's solicitor general. Lee had befriended Josh Reid and both families were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lee recently wrote warmly of Reid following his passing. He recalled Reid’s fondness for practical jokes. 

“One day, as Josh and I were riding skateboards in the Reids’ garage, Harry figured out a way to lock us inside (I’m still not sure how he did it), just to see how we’d react,” Lee wrote. “He seemed pleased with the outcome — in large part because Josh and I seemed not only unfazed, but affirmatively amused by the trick.”

Read our obituary for Reid here and our coverage of his funeral services on Jan. 8th here.

Michelle Rindels contributed to this story and video.

This story was updated Wednesday June 12, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. to note that President Joe Biden came to the U.S. Capitol to pay his final respects to Sen. Harry Reid.

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