Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday he will retire at the end of his term, closing a long and controversial career in Congress that spanned four decades.
Appearing with bruises on his face from a recent at-home exercising accident, Reid, 75, said the injury has allowed him and his family to have a “little down-time,” giving him time to think.
“We’ve got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us. And as a result of that, I’m not going to run for reelection,” the senator said in the video.
Reid, ribbing his Republican counterpart, added: “My friend, Senator McConnell, don’t be too elated. I’m going to be here for twenty-two months.”
Reid has been a controversial figure, and during his tenure as majority leader was blamed by Republicans for much of the dysfunction in the chamber. Republicans won the majority last fall.
“On the verge of losing his own election and after losing the majority, Senator Harry Reid has decided to hang up his rusty spurs,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Director Ward Baker said in a statement welcoming the announcement.
Praise from fellow Democrats, meanwhile, was effusive.
“Harry is one of the best human beings I’ve ever met,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “His character and fundamental decency are at the core of why he’s been such a successful and beloved leader.”
First elected to the Senate in 1986, Reid previously served in the House. He has endured tough re-election battles in 1998, 2004 and most recently 2010 — against Tea Party-backed candidate Sharron Angle.
Among other decisions, Reid will be remembered for allowing the so-called “nuclear option” in late 2013, when he unilaterally moved to change Senate rules to allow a simple majority vote to overcome filibusters for certain nominations. While procedural, the change was significant because it meant the Senate no longer needed the usual 60 votes to advance on controversial nominations.
Republicans quickly gloated that his seat would be a prime pickup opportunity in 2016. GOP figures ranging from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to Rep. Joe Heck and others could be interested.
Though Reid plans to serve out his term, his departure also touches off a leadership battle among Democrats. Schumer, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and others would likely be in contention.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.