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Will Reid's Monument Stop Yucca Mountain?

Senator Harry Reid
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., (left) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at a ceremony in March at the U.S. Capitol.

Entering his last year in office, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, D-NV, is making some bold moves destined to leave his mark on Nevada.

One of the biggest was the announcement by President Barack Obama to designate 700,000 acres in central Nevada as a National Monument.

Known as Nevada’s Basin and Range, the area is rife with wildlife, of course.

But, it is also home to both modern and ancient art. A massive public art project cut into the earth called “City” is there along with petroglyphs, art carved and drawn onto rock that is some 13,000 years old.

Basin and Range National Monument

“I love and have done a lot to preserve mountains, forests, rivers, lakes and oceans and they’re all beautiful and I love them, but I’m a desert guy,” Reid told KNPR’s State of Nevada Monday morning.

Reid brushed off criticism about the designation from people like Governor Brian Sandoval who said he wished the senator had asked for more input from leaders in Nevada.

“I told them all what I was going to do,” he said. “Maybe they should have said something then.”

He also immediately dismissed the idea that the monument was a way to stop a railroad that would bring nuclear waste to a waste repository at Yucca Mountain from being built.

“First of all, there’s not going to be Yucca Mountain so why would you build a railroad and if there were a Yucca Mountain, which there isn’t, the railroad would never be built anyways,” Reid said

He said stopping a rail line has never part of his “calculations” on designating Basin and Range.

Senate Race 2016

Senator Reid again expressed his support for his hand-picked successor former State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

He also knocked one of the republicans who announced plans to run for his soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, Rep. Joe Heck, R-NV.

“Joe Heck is a nice man. I don’t have anything personally against him,” the senator said, “The fact is he has voted lock step with the crazies in the house, the right-wing people.”

Senator Reid pointed out he has been in the Senate a long time and knows what type of person should be there.

Donald Trump

The senator had some harsh words about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“His statements are beyond the pale,” Reid said, “It’s really unbelievable what he’s done. If this man gets the nomination, I feel so very, very sorry for the Republican party but also for our country.”

Reid also criticized other Republicans for only “tepid” responses to his remarks on immigrants.

“You have people not willing to come out against Trump because they’re afraid that they will hurt them in the Republican Party and it probably would,” Reid remarked.

Jeb Bush

The senator also had strong words for Jeb Bush concerning his statement that “people need to work longer hours” to grow the economy.

“The statement was somewhat startling to me,” Reid said. “Say that to someone who is working two part-time jobs or two full-time jobs, trying to support their family because minimum wage doesn’t do it.”

The Senate Minority Leader believes the presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush should be talking about creating new jobs not about having Americans work harder.


Senator Reid also answered a caller’s question about immigration. The senator pointed out that the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill that would have fixed many problems with the nation’s immigration policy, including creating a path to citizenship.

Again, Reid blamed the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform on the House.  

“Because of the ridiculous, right wing that has run that House of Representatives for these last few years, it’s gone nowhere,” Reid said.

He believes if Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, would let the bill come to the floor for a vote, it would pass “overwhelmingly.”

Presidential Election

After a slight chuckle, the senator answered another caller’s question about the presidential election.

“I’m really a Clinton fan but right now I’ve not endorsed anyone,” he said.

The senator said he would announce his endorsement later, but had kind words for all the democratic candidates.

Congressional Elections

As far as the other races in the 2016 cycle, Reid is confident the Democrats will take the four seats they need to get the majority back in the Senate.

He said his party would take Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“We’re in pretty good shape all over the country and so we’ll pick up enough seats to retake the majority,” Reid said.

He also believes the infighting between factions of the Republican Party means the country will get another Democrat for president.


The drought has captured headlines across the country and Reid told KNPR’s State of Nevada that it is another example of the world’s changing climate.

“We have a tremendous problems on our hands,” he said, “The climate has changed. The deniers are still denying but they can’t survive.”

He said issues caused by changing climate can be found across the country and “we need to something as soon as we can.”

Congressional Partisanship

In a topic the senator has addressed before on KNPR’s State of Nevada, Reid bemoaned the polarization and partisanship he says has taken over Congress.

“What has happened now that the Tea Party has such power, they basically run the House,” Reid said. “There is no compromise. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

What’s Next

While he has only 18 months, by his count, to be in the job he loves, Sen. Reid says he is busy but not worried about what comes next.

“I’ve solidified plans. I’m not going to worry about it,” Reid said. “I’ve loved my job all these many years. I’m really seriously not going to worry about it.”


Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, Senate Minority Leader

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.