Patrick Leahy, Longest-Serving U.S. Senator, Won’t Seek Re-Election
(Bloomberg) -- Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy, the longest-serving member in the U.S. Senate and chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, announced Monday he’ll retire rather than seek a ninth term in 2022.
“It’s time to put down the gavel. It’s time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state,” Leahy, 81, said in an announcement in the state capital of Montpelier. “It’s time to come home.”
Vermont has become a Democratic stronghold in recent decades, but Leahy’s retirement could provide an opening for Republicans to contest the Senate seat in a year in which President Joe Biden’s party is fighting to keep its narrow control of the chamber. There are 14 Senate seats currently held by Democrats on the ballot in 2022, including Leahy’s, and 20 held by Republicans.
The state’s lone representative in the House, Democrat Peter Welch, is seen as a likely contender to run for the seat. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, a moderate who has bucked the national party on numerous issues and was a critic of former President Donald Trump, was re-elected in 2018 and hasn’t announced his plans.
First elected to the Senate in 1974, Leahy serves as the the chamber’s president pro tempore -- a seniority-dictated position that makes him third in line to the presidency. In that capacity, he presided over Trump’s second impeachment trial.
He took the Appropriations gavel earlier this year when Democrats won control of the chamber.
A former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy is known for his role in the increasingly partisan fights over Supreme Court nominees, his efforts to pass immigration overhauls and his acting credits in five Batman movies.
He helped scuttle the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 and opposed the successful nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Leahy was part of a bipartisan 2013 effort to enact a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, which the Senate passed before the measure stalled in the House.
In October, he eclipsed Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy to become the fourth-longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
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