National Consumers League statement on the death of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

December 30, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, or (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League paid its respects this week to the Senator most responsible for the enactment in 2010 of the landmark Affordable Care Act, known also as “Obamacare,” which for the first time in American history made universal health care available to consumers. We thank Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who died this week, for that critical achievement.

This statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

The National Consumers League pays tribute — upon his death — to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose remarkable legacy includes navigating the adoption of the 2010 Affordable Care Act through the U.S. Senate. Reid credited the lack of health care available he faced growing up for his determination to get the ACA enacted. He noted that “a great nation can’t have upwards of 40 million to 50 million people with no way to go to a hospital or see a doctor.”

Reid recalled how he saved money working at a gas station to buy his mother a set of teeth and the lack of mental health services for his father, who ultimately died by suicide.

Reid also encouraged a young Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, to run for president. Obama credited Reid with enabling the adoption of his broader agenda. Earlier, while serving in the Nevada State Assembly, Reid got enacted a requirement that utility companies pay interest on large deposits they demanded from customers and championed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

While in Congress, Reid consistently fought off efforts by President George W. Bush to privatize Social Security; NCL has long opposed the campaign to privatize this sacred program, which was conceived in the Progressive Era by NCL’s early leaders to protect older Americans from dire poverty. In addition, Reid’s federal environmental agenda took Nevada from 67,000 acres of wilderness to more than 4 million acres of new parks and open spaces and as Majority Leader, Reid shut off funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site — earmarked for Nevada — citing the health and safety risk to his constituents.

Harry Reid’s life was a true American “rags to riches” story. He rose from dire poverty in Nevada, raised with no running water, telephone, or indoor bathroom. He was elected at age 28 to the Nevada State Assembly and came to Washington, where he joined the U.S. Capital Police and attended George Washington Law School at night. Upon his return to Nevada, he headed the state’s gaming commission for five years; Reid is credited with routing out the influence of long entrenched organized crime from the casino industry.

Reid was elected to the U.S. Senate and eventually became Majority Leader. Though he was soft spoken, Reid used his amateur boxing skills to fight for the interests of consumers and workers. He used to say that “I always would rather dance than fight, but I know how to fight.”  Most Americans likely have no idea how important a force for good Senator Reid was, and achieving passage of the ACA was the highpoint of his career.

As Senator Joe Lieberman noted: “Harry Reid managed something that seemed almost unthinkable: he held every single Senate Democrat — 60 of them, at least at the crucial moment — together to vote for a sprawling, unpopular bill that raised taxes, cut Medicare spending, and insured tens of millions of Americans.”

Americans who today have access to affordable, high quality health care owe Senator Reid a huge debt of gratitude. His tremendous skill, persistence, and passion made the ACA a reality. Harry Reid got “health care for all” over the finish line in the Senate. The National Consumers League is honored to pay tribute to this truly great man.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit