Sen. Harry Reid talks about top issues in Nevada
December 8, 2006
Harry Reid was elected to his fourth six-year term as a U.S. senator representing Nevada in 2004. Before that, he served two terms in the House of Representatives.
Reid, born in Searchlight, near Las Vegas, is 67. His political career began with a two-year term in the Nevada Assembly (1968-70) followed by one term as lieutenant governor (1970-74). He also served one term as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission (1977-1981).
He was minority whip for Senate Democrats 2002-2004 and minority leader for the past two years. In January, when Congress convenes, he will become majority leader of the Democrat-controlled Senate.
You said after the election you wanted to work with the Republicans to form bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems and needs, but it seems the GOP’s response was to paint a target on your back and on that of Nancy Pelosi. Is bipartisanship a realistic possibility?
I’ve said this from the beginning: We will not treat them the way they treated us. I really believe the Golden Rule applies to everything including politics. We’ve invited them in. We’ll make sure we have real conferences. We will not treat them like they treated us.
How are you dealing with that target painted on you? How are you dealing with the national exposure in general since you’re now on the nightly news?
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It’s something I have to accept. It’s part of my role. But I have to frankly, look at things differently. For example, you know I’m a fight fan. I didn’t’ get free tickets. They gave me credentials. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about it, but I should have recognized it looked bad. I have to not only do what’s right but what appears to be right.
Is there a solution to the immigration problem?
This not an if situation. We have do something. What I believe we need to do is comprehensive immigration reform. What we need to do is have legislation making our borders safer. That doesn’t mean building fence for 2,200 miles. We need better border security. But Las Vegas is going to build 50,000 new rooms. They do not have the workers to manage those rooms. So we need a temporary- guest worker program.
We must also have a pathway to legalization. Not amnesty. A pathway to legalization. They have to pay taxes, learn English. Then they go to the back of the line – not the front of the line. It would take them about 12 years.
Third, employer sanctions must mean something. Right now people hire with impunity. They must not do that. That’s where the 11 to 12 million people come from.
Is a guest worker plan a good idea in view of what’s happened with similar programs in France, Germany and the Netherlands?
The problem with guest-worker programs in the past is they don’t end. A guest worker is temporary. They come in for period of time. When it’s over with, we send them back.
Now that you’re in the majority, do you think Nevadans will be able to get back more of the money we send to the federal government? (Nevada gets back only about 73 cents of every dollar its residents send to the federal government)
I’ve done a pretty good job changing things around. I believe congressional directives are important and I don’t think all decisions should be made by the Washington bureaucracy. For example, flood control should not be, military construction for Nellis, Fallon and Hawthorne should not be directed from Washington. We should have some say in this.
Is Yucca Mountain finally dead?
It’s 25 years behind schedule already. It’s not dead, but it’s really in deep trouble, certainly on oxygen. I’ve said while I’m majority leader it will not come to the floor (for a vote).