A day after he was elected Senate majority leader, Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid promised that his home state will benefit from his new post.
"It's important that I have everyone understand that I'm a senator from Nevada," Reid told reporters in his Senate office Wednesday.
"We'll do better than we've ever done in appropriations and other matters," he said.
Reid said he'd be well-placed to continue his opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump that the Bush administration wants to locate in the desert northwest of Las Vegas.
"I control what we take up on the floor." Senate majority leader was a job he never wanted or thought he'd have, said the 66-year-old gold miner's son from tiny Searchlight, Nev., who was first elected to the Senate two decades ago.
"I'm really happy. I know I'm not a smiley kind of guy, but I'm happy," he said.
Reid, at one time an amateur boxer, told about coming home after
losing a fight. His father, a drinker who later committed suicide,
asked him if he'd tried his hardest.
Reid answered "yes," but then realized he could have tried harder, and he made a vow.
"I said I'll never ever be involved in anything unless I work as hard as I can, try as hard as I can," he said. It's a message he said he delivered to his Democratic caucus this week.
"'There are a lot of you out there who are much better looking than I am, smarter, more experienced. But there's nobody out there that will work harder or try harder than I,"' Reid recounted telling senators.
Reid has had to answer questions about his ethics, including how he accounted for a personal land deal. He also accepted donations from several of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's tribal clients and wrote letters favorable to them.
"I've always opposed expansion of Indian gaming, I'll continue to do so," Reid said in response to questions on Abramoff, who is cooperating in an ongoing congressional corruption investigation. "This job of mine attracts a lot of attention, I understand that. I'm aware of that, able to handle that."
Reid's ethics questions have provided fodder for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the recruiting and fundraising committee for GOP senators. Nevada's other senator, Republican John
Ensign, was picked Wednesday as NRSC chairman.
Reid and Ensign both said their opposing roles wouldn't affect their friendly relationship and cooperation on legislation benefiting Nevada.
"At least I'll have somebody to call now" in case of NRSC attacks, Reid said.
"He and I just like each other, and I think we set a good example here in the Senate," Reid said of their relationship, which developed after Reid narrowly defeated Ensign in 1998. Ensign was elected to the state's other Senate seat two years later.
"He's a Republican, I'm a Democrat, we work together on issues that are important to the state of Nevada. And I wish other people had the same nonaggression pact we have," Reid said.
"It's not a Brokeback Mountain situation," he joked, referring to last year's film about two gay cowboy lovers.
Ensign was re-elected to a second Senate term last week while Reid will next be up for re-election in 2010.