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Patrick Leahy announces he will retire from US Senate

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Patrick Leahy announces he will retire from US Senate

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the chamber’s longest-serving member, announced Monday that he would retire at the end of his term rather than seek re-election in 2022, closing nearly half a century of service in Congress. Will do

Mr Leahy, 81, who was elected in 1974 at the age of 34 after serving as a prosecutor, announced his decision at a news conference at the Vermont State House in Montpellier.

Speaking in the same room where he announced his first campaign for Senate, Mr. Leahy said, “It’s time to put down the gavel — it’s time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter.” “It’s time to come home.”

Leahy’s departure is unlikely to change the partisan makeup of the Senate, given that Vermont is a solid democratic state; President Biden won there last year by 65 percent of the vote. But it will rob the chamber of an institutionalized man who has come to incorporate his own traditions and the community that has defined it in a bygone era.

“It’s hard to imagine the United States Senate without Patrick Leahy,” said Representative Peter Welch, the only Vermont Democrat in the House, widely seen as a possible successor to the senator. “No one has served Vermont so faithfully, so consistently, so honestly, and so fiercely as Patrick.”

Mr. Leahy, the only sitting senator to serve during President Gerald R. Ford’s term, is the first and only registered Democrat to be elected to represent Vermont in the Senate. He recently became the fourth-longest-serving senator in US history, and completing his term at the end of 2022 will make him the third-longest-serving.

Mr. Leahy serves as the provisional chairman of the Senate, a role reserved for the most senior member of the majority party that puts him third in line for the presidency. He is also the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

That seniority meant that Mr Leahy played a unique role in the second impeachment of former President Donald J. After rioters stormed the building in certification of Biden’s victory, after fleeing the Senate chamber, Mr. Leahy both presided over the trial and served as a juror, ultimately voting to indict Mr. Trump. .

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In his news conference, Mr. Leahy reflected on more than four decades of fine-grained legislative work in the Senate. He talked about bills to support forestland and agricultural land in Vermont, increase nutritional aid nationwide, and help victims of the Vietnam War.

And he talked about legislation and judicial appointments—including every current member of the Supreme Court—that he oversaw as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the panel. Mr Leahy also gained prominence for his push to reduce domestic surveillance after the September 11 terrorist attacks – work that led to him being targeted in the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill.

“It is the greatest honor to represent you in Washington,” he said on Monday. “I am humbled by your support, and always will be. I believe in what the future holds.”

“It’s been such a big part of our lives,” he concluded, standing beside his wife Marcel, who could be seen patting his eyes as the supporters applauded. His office broadcast his comments, announcing “the decision he and Marcel have made about 2022”.

Mr. Leahy has expressed growing frustration in recent years with the impasse that has disrupted most legislation in Congress, often complaining to reporters during the most tense moments in negotiations that bills must be put on the floor for up or down votes. should be kept. He is a major sponsor of legislation to expand voting rights protections, which Republicans have repeatedly blocked through filibusters this year.

While he has maintained a steady stream of work in the Senate, where the average age is around 64, Mr. Leahy’s health has faltered at times recently. In January, soon after the impeachment proceedings began, he was briefly taken to hospital for observation after he reported that he was not feeling well.

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“Very few people in the history of the United States Senate can match Patrick Leahy’s record,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “He has been a custodian of Vermont and more rural states in the Senate, and has an unmatched loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Mr. Schumer expressed confidence that the seat would remain in Democratic hands. Senator Bernie Sanders, 80, an independent who works with Democrats, will become Vermont’s senior senator upon Leahy’s retirement.

Mr Lehi’s announcement means the top two positions on the Appropriations Committee will be vacated at the end of 2022. Alabama Senator Richard C. Shelby, the panel’s top Republican and close friend of Mr Leahy, is also retiring.

But Mr Leahy vowed he would oversee the completion of a dozen annual spending bills to keep the government funded. He joked on Monday that his approach at the top of the appropriations committee was “simple: alphabetize all the states starting with the letter V — Vermont.”

Another senior Democrat on the appropriations panel, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, said on Twitter, “I’m sure he’ll agree that a great way to honor him would be to make sure this year’s appropriations bills are put into law as quickly as possible.” be signed.” ,

Born nearly blind in one eye, Mr. Leahy found photography an outlet and is known to carry a camera on Capitol Hill, photographing both his colleagues and the journalists walking down the hallways.

Outside the Capitol, Mr. Leahy is known as a fan of Batman, and has starred in films across the franchise, including Heath Ledger facing the Joker in “The Dark Knight”.

He also takes great pride in the prized real estate that comes with being the most senior senator, often taking visitors, journalists, and colleagues to his private hideaway office at the Capitol to take in breathtaking views of the Washington Monument and the National Mall.

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