Jack Reed (Rhode Island politician)

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Jack Reed
Official portrait, 2017
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Serving with Sheldon Whitehouse
Preceded byClaiborne Pell
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Assumed office
February 3, 2021
Preceded byJim Inhofe
Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – February 3, 2021
Preceded byJim Inhofe
Succeeded byJim Inhofe
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byClaudine Schneider
Succeeded byRobert Weygand
Member of the Rhode Island Senate
from the 12th district
In office
January 1, 1985 – January 1, 1991
Preceded byRobert P. Moretti
Succeeded byJohn R. O'Leary
Personal details
John Francis Reed

(1949-11-12) November 12, 1949 (age 74)
Cranston, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Julia Hart
(m. 2005)
WebsiteSenate website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service
  • 1971–1979 (active)
  • 1979–1991 (reserve)

John Francis Reed GOIH (born November 12, 1949) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the senior United States senator from Rhode Island, a seat he was first elected to in 1996. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the U.S. representative for Rhode Island's 2nd congressional district from 1991 to 1997. Reed graduated from the United States Military Academy and Harvard University, serving in the U.S. Army as an active officer from 1971 to 1979. He is the dean of Rhode Island's congressional delegation.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Reed was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Mary Louise (née Monahan) and Joseph Anthony Reed.[1] Reed graduated from La Salle Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971. After graduating, he spent several years in active duty military service. Reed earned the Ranger Tab and was a paratrooper. He served as a paratrooper in the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division where he was a platoon leader, company commander and battalion staff officer.

Reed attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he received a Master of Public Policy. He returned to West Point in 1978 as an associate professor in the Department of Social Sciences.[2] He left active duty in 1979 after earning the rank of captain. He served in the United States Army Reserve until 1991, and retired as a major. After leaving active duty, Reed enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he became a member of the Board of Student Advisers. In 1982, he graduated with his Juris Doctor and worked as an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Afterward, he returned to Rhode Island and worked for the Providence law firm Edwards and Angell until 1990.

Reed was elected as a state senator in 1984 and served three terms.[3]

Reed married professional Senate staffer Julia Hart in a Roman Catholic ceremony in the Catholic chapel on the United States Military Academy campus on April 16, 2005. On January 5, 2007, their daughter, Emily, was born.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

In 1990, Reed was elected to the United States House of Representatives, receiving 59% of the vote in the general election.[3] For the next six years, he focused on education and health care.

U.S. Senate[edit]

Reed during the 112th Congress



When Senator Claiborne Pell, the longest-serving senator in Rhode Island's history and the 13th longest-serving senator in US history, announced his retirement in 1996, Reed declared his candidacy. Reed won the Democratic primary with 86% of the vote and beat the Republican nominee, Rhode Island General Treasurer Nancy Mayer, 63% to 35%.


Reed ran for a second term. He was unopposed in the Democratic primary and his Republican opponent was Robert Tingle, a casino pit manager and the unsuccessful Republican nominee for the state's 2nd congressional district in 2000. Reed won by 78% to 22%.


Reed ran for a third term. He won the Democratic primary with 87% of the vote. In the general election, he faced a rematch with Tingle, again winning in a landslide, 73% to 27%.


Reed ran for a fourth term. Polling showed him leading prospective Republican opponents by margins of between 29% and 65%. Unopposed in the Democratic primary, Reed faced former Congressional nominee and former Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Mark Zaccaria in the general election. Reed won in another landslide, 71% to 29%.


Reed ran for a fifth term. He won the Democratic primary unopposed. In the general election, he faced investment consultant Allen R. Waters and won in yet another landslide, 67% to 33%.

Political future[edit]

In 2008, Reed was mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for Barack Obama.[4][5] On July 14, 2008, Reed announced that he was "not interested" in becoming Obama's running mate.[6]

Reed has consistently been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Defense.[7][8] In late 2010, he turned down Obama's offer to succeed Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. The position was ultimately filled by Leon Panetta.[9] After Obama was reelected in 2012 and Panetta announced his decision to retire, Reed was again mentioned as a possible nominee for the position, as well as for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Once again, he denied interest in either position.[10][11][12]

When Panetta's successor Chuck Hagel announced his resignation in December 2014, Reed was again said to be on Obama's shortlist. Despite the Republican takeover of the Senate in the 2014 elections, it was said that Reed's confirmation would be a "foregone conclusion".[13][14] He again denied interest,[15] with a spokesman saying, "Senator Reed loves his job and wants to continue serving the people of Rhode Island in the United States Senate. He has made it very clear that he does not wish to be considered for Secretary of Defense or any other cabinet position. He just asked the people of Rhode Island to hire him for another six-year term and plans on honoring that commitment."[14]

On November 24, 2014, Ted Nesi of WPRI-TV gave some reasons that Reed might be uninterested in cabinet positions, citing his "safe seat", his status as one of the most popular politicians in the state, his fondness for working in the Senate and his passion for housing policy. He concluded that "no matter how many times Reed's aides privately groan about another flareup of defense secretary speculation, they surely appreciate that each recurrence is a sign of the senator's positive reputation in Washington and Obama's esteem for him."[16]

Committee assignments[edit]

Reed's committee assignments for the 118th Congress are as follows:[17]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Reed speaking during the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Legislation sponsored[edit]

The following is an incomplete list of legislation that Reed has sponsored:

Political positions[edit]

Since his election to Congress, Reed has consistently voted in a similar manner to other New England Democrats, holding generally liberal positions on social and economic issues. He has voted with his party 94.7% of the time.[19]


Reed strongly supports abortion rights, and has rejected proposals to limit late-term abortion, ban such procedures from occurring on military installations, and deny minors the right to cross state lines to obtain abortions.[20]

Civil rights[edit]

Reed supports affirmative action. He has voted to expand such policies and to set aside money for women and minorities from the highway fund. He also supported LGBTQ rights, voting against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and in favor of measures that prevent job discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTQ people.[20]

Economy and jobs[edit]

Reed has generally supported fair trade policies over similar ones advocating free trade. He voted against renewing presidential authority to "fast-track" normalized trade relations. Reed opposed CAFTA and similar free trade proposals for Chile, Singapore, Peru, and Oman, but voted in favor of normalizing trade relations with China. He has also been a strong supporter of unionizing workers, and has criticized government and business interference with these groups. Reed supports increasing the minimum wage and unemployment compensation.[20]

Reed serves on the Senate Banking Committee, which has held hearings into JP Morgan Chase bank's activities. He has accepted campaign contributions from its CEO Jamie Dimon.[21]

Election security[edit]

In July 2019, Reed and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan requesting an explanation of the actions the DHS took in response to "unexpected behavior" of voting equipment in Durham County, North Carolina during the 2016 presidential election and writing that it was "critical that we learn as much as we can about the extent of the attacks we faced in 2016, and that these lessons be shared as widely as possible so that our nation is fully prepared for the 2020 elections."[22]


Reed supports limiting American oil use and expanding alternative energy. He opposes Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling and federal subsidies for oil exploration, while favoring a 40% reduction in oil use by 2025 and funding for hydrogen automobiles. Reed has voted to end discussions on Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, and has been an outspoken proponent of stronger restrictions of mercury use, as well as an end to commercial whaling.[23]

Gun control[edit]

Reed supports gun control. He supports a national assault weapon ban.[24] Reed has voted against limiting lawsuits on gun manufacturers and has favored expanding gun control. He voted against loosening background checks at gun shows.


Reed has been an advocate of preventive healthcare. Like many other Democrats, he supports increasing Medicare funding, enrolling more Americans into programs that help the uninsured, allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, and negotiating bulk medication purchases for Medicare in order to lower costs.[20] Reed does not support Medicare for All. Instead, in 2019 he proposed the Choose Medicare Act, which he claims increases "access, competition, and choice."[25]


Although he voted for the 1996 Immigration Reform Bill, Reed has generally supported allowing undocumented immigrants and foreign workers to enter the path to citizenship. He supports Guest Worker programs and giving immigrants access to Social Security. He opposed establishing English as the nation's official language and has been critical of the effort to fence the US-Mexican border.[20] He is the author of the Reed Amendment, which permits former U.S. citizens to be denied entry to the country if they are believed to have renounced their citizenship for tax reasons.[26] On February 23, 2010, Reed co-sponsored the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented students living in the United States from a very young age to gain legal status.[27]

LGBTQIA+ rights[edit]

In October 2018, Reed was one of 20 senators to sign a letter to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to reverse the rollback of a policy that granted visas to same-sex partners of LGBTQ diplomats who had unions that were not recognized by their home countries, writing that too many places around the world have seen LGBTQIA+ individuals "subjected to discrimination and unspeakable violence, and receive little or no protection from the law or local authorities", and that the US refusing to let LGBTQIA+ diplomats bring their partners to the US would be tantamount to upholding "the discriminatory policies of many countries around the world."[28]

Reed supports transgender rights. He opposes a ban in the military that prevents military recruits and transgender troops from transitioning to another sex.[29]

Veteran affairs[edit]

Reed helps veterans enter the Department of Veteran Affairs, ensuring that former servicemen and servicewomen can receive medical care.

War in Iraq[edit]

Reed was one of 23 US senators to vote against H.J. Resolution 114, which authorized President George W. Bush to use force against Iraq in 2002.[30] In 2007, he elaborated on his sentiments, saying, "It was a flawed strategy that diverted attention and resources away from hunting down Osama bin Laden's terrorist network." Like David Petraeus, Reed said he believed the real problems in Iraq were political and unrelated to the military.[31]

Reed and King Abdullah II of Jordan in February 2018

War in Yemen[edit]

In 2018, Reed was one a few Democrats to support U.S. backing of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.[32] By 2019 he reversed his position, saying that he wanted to end U.S. support for the coalition.[32] A network of progressive groups, including Demand Progress, Working Families Party, and Chapo Trap House, urged Reed to ensure that the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act withdrew support for the war.[33][32]

Nagorno–Karabakh conflict[edit]

On October 1, 2020, Reed co-signed a letter to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that condemned Azerbaijan’s offensive operations against the Republic of Artsakh, denounced Turkey’s role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and called for an immediate ceasefire.[34] Reed stated that "Armenians have a right to defend themselves when attacked."[35]

War in Afghanistan[edit]

Reed supports President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 2021. He said that "the president made a difficult, but the best of many poor choices."[36]

Electoral history[edit]

United States House of Representatives 2nd district Democratic primary election in Rhode Island, 1990

  • √ Jack Reed 49.0%
  • Edward Beard, Sr. 27.4%
  • Charles Gifford, III 14.7%
  • Rodney Driver 8.9%

United States House of Representatives 2nd district election in Rhode Island, 1990

  • √ Jack Reed (D) 59.2%
  • Gertrude Coxe (R) 40.8%

United States House of Representatives 2nd district Democratic primary election in Rhode Island, 1992

  • √ Jack Reed (Incumbent) 76.4%
  • Spencer Dickinson 23.6%

United States House of Representatives 2nd district election in Rhode Island, 1992

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 70.7%
  • James Bell (R) 24.5%
  • Thomas Ricci (I) 3.3%
  • John Turnbull (IT) 1.6%

United States House of Representative 2nd district election in Rhode Island, 1994

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 68.0%
  • John Elliot (R) 32.0%

United States Senate Democratic primary election in Rhode Island, 1996

  • √ Jack Reed 86.1%
  • Don Gil 13.9%

United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 1996

  • √ Jack Reed (D) 63.3%
  • Nancy Mayer (R) 35.0%
  • Donald W. Lovejoy (I) 1.7%

United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2002

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 78.4%
  • Robert G. Tingle (R) 21.6%

United States Senate Democratic primary election in Rhode Island, 2008

  • √ Jack Reed 86.8%
  • Christopher Young 13.2%

United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2008

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 73.4%
  • Robert G. Tingle (R) 27.6%

United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2014

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 71%
  • Mark Zaccaria (R) 29%

United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2020

  • √ Jack Reed (D) (Incumbent) 66.5%
  • Allen Waters (R) 33.4%



  1. ^ "Roots web: John Francis "Jack" Reed".
  2. ^ "Biography: Senator Jack Reed". reed.senate.gov. Office of Senator Jack Reed. Archived from the original on June 1, 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Sen. Jack Reed (D)". Almanac. The National Journal. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  4. ^ Herszenhorn, David M. (June 17, 2008). "A Quiet Dealmaker Works for Pained Homeowners". The New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  5. ^ West, Paul (July 5, 2008). "VP picks: Gore, or somebody like him". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  6. ^ "Reed says 'not interested' in VP role". CNN. July 15, 2008. Archived from the original on November 19, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  7. ^ Scharfenberg, David (September 28, 2010). "Capitol Hill Shocker!: Reed Won't be SecDef". The Providence Phoenix. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "Barack Obama's second-term Cabinet". Politico. September 28, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  9. ^ "Report: Jack Reed turns down Defense Secretary job". WPRI. September 28, 2010. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  10. ^ "If Sen. Reed Becomes Sec. of Defense or CIA Director - See the Domino Effect". Go Local Prov. September 28, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  11. ^ "Re-elected Obama prepares to replace Panetta". DoD Buzz. September 28, 2010. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  12. ^ Gerstein, Josh (September 28, 2010). "Sen. Jack Reed not interested in CIA director job". Politico. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  13. ^ "Sen. Reed, ex-Defense official Michele Flournoy surface as possible Hagel replacements". Fox News. November 24, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Dennis, Steven D. (November 24, 2014). "Chuck Hagel Out at DOD; Jack Reed, Michele Flournoy, Ashton Carter on Short List (Updated) (Video)". Roll Call. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Peter (November 24, 2014). "Reed not interested in Defense secretary job". The Hill. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  16. ^ "Why Jack Reed doesn't want to be defense secretary". WPRI-TV. November 24, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  17. ^ "Committee Assignments of the 118th Congress". United States Senate. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  18. ^ "Members". Afterschool Alliance. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  19. ^ "Voting Statistics for Jack Reed". The Political Guide. Archived from the original on May 1, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Jack Reed on the Issues". On The Issues. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  21. ^ Glaun, Dan (June 12, 2012). "Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Have History with Senate's Banking Panel". opensecrets.org. OpenSecrets. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  22. ^ Miller, Maggie (July 8, 2019). "Senators question DHS on North Carolina voting equipment malfunctions". The Hill. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  23. ^ "S.Res.121 - A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the policy of the United States at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission". congress.gov. June 29, 2001. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  24. ^ "Blumenthal, Murphy join other Democratic senators to introduce assault weapons ban". November 8, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  25. ^ "Reed Offers Bill to Make Medicare an Affordable Healthcare Option for More Americans". reed.senate.gov. Office of Senator Jack Reed. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  26. ^ Kirsch, Michael S. (2004). "Alternative Sanctions and the Federal Tax Law: Symbols, Shaming, and Social Norm Management as a Substitute for Effective Tax Policy". Iowa Law Review. 89 (863). SSRN 552730.
  27. ^ "Cosponsors - S.729 - 111th Congress (2009-2010): DREAM Act of 2009". congress.gov. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  28. ^ Rodriguez, Jesus (October 11, 2018). "Democratic senators demand Pompeo reverse visa denials for LGBTQ diplomats' partners". Politico. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  29. ^ "Sen. Reed says Pentagon shouldn't adopt new transgender rule". March 13, 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  30. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 107th Congress — 2nd Session: On the Joint Resolution (H.J.Res. 114 )". senate.gov. United States Senate. Retrieved August 26, 2009.
  31. ^ "Sen. Jack Reed Responds to President Bush's Address on Iraq". The Washington Post. September 13, 2007. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  32. ^ a b c Nesi, Ted (September 3, 2019). "Sen. Reed urged to push for US pullback in Yemen". WPRI.com. Providence. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  33. ^ Shaw, Donald (September 6, 2019). "Will Senator Reed Stand Up to His Defense Donors on Yemen?". The American Prospect. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  34. ^ "Senate and House Leaders to Secretary of State Pompeo: Cut Military Aid to Azerbaijan; Sanction Turkey for Ongoing Attacks Against Armenia and Artsakh". Armenian Weekly. October 2, 2020.
  35. ^ "Members of Congress Blast Azerbaijan and Turkey As Attack on Artsakh Expands to Armenia". Armenian Weekly. September 29, 2020.
  36. ^ "Jack Reed: Biden made 'the best of many poor choices' on Afghanistan". Politico. July 11, 2021.
  37. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved March 20, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Claiborne Pell
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Rhode Island
(Class 2)

1996, 2002, 2008, 2014, 2020
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Rhode Island
Served alongside: John Chafee, Lincoln Chafee, Sheldon Whitehouse
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Succeeded by
Jim Inhofe
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by Order of precedence of the United States
as United States Senator
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States senators by seniority