WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy prepares to spend more time with family, he’s reflecting, both personally and at public events, about his accomplishments over nearly 50 years in the U.S. Senate, and how he hopes the next group of lawmakers will foster an environment that brings both sides together.
Elected in 1974, Leahy is the last of the so-called Watergate babies, the surge of congressional Democrats elected after President Richard Nixon resigned. He said he was known as one of the “kids” of the Senate.
“When I came to the Senate, the two youngest members of the Senate were Joe Biden and Patrick Leahy,” Leahy quipped. “He reminds me he is two years younger than I am.”
ABC 22 & FOX44 News Anchor Lauren Maloney traveled to Washington, D.C. in September. Leahy was using a cane to get around after a fall at his Virginia home in late June, led to a hip replacement. He credits his wife of 60 years for helping him along the way.
“After a month in the hospital, with Marcelle taking care of me, teaching me how to walk again, I’m glad she’s here,” he said.
On September 22, the Senator attended his 15th and final Taste of Vermont, a reception held in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room. It’s a showcase of specialty foods unique to Vermont, hosted by the Lake Champlain Chamber.
“I meet so many of my fellow Vermonters who put their operations together from scratch and they just set out to create the best of whatever it is, and they have,” Leahy said.
Leahy will leave the Senate in January as Chair of the Appropriations Committee. He is also the senior-most member of both the Agriculture and Judiciary Committees. He has also been promoting his new book, “The Road Taken.”
“It shows the evolution of the Senate from that time to today, and it is not a good evolution,” he says. In the chapter called The Breaking Point, Leahy describes January 6, 2021.
“The riots are probably one of the best examples of what happens when I’m right, you’re wrong, and there is no middle ground,” he wrote. “If that continues, the world’s greatest democracy, will be the world’s suffering democracy.”
In his office as Senate President Pro Tempore, Leahy pointed out some pictures and family photos he was worried would be destroyed on January 6. When I asked Leahy what his hope was for both parties moving forward, he advised they stop the polarization.
“There should be one single issue, and that’s the country. Start working to bring us back together,” Leahy urged.
And that’s up to the next group of lawmakers. Leahy says he’s ready to come home, and he has no second thoughts.
“I’ve loved the Senate; I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “I’ve found it frustrating at times, but I would not give up a moment that I’ve had in the Senate. But I also have no regrets whatsoever in my decision.”
During Senate recess over the past few months, Leahy has been honored by various companies, schools and organizations.
He says he’ll remain committed to programs he’s helped fund, such as The Leahy Center for Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity at Champlain College, and of course, The Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. At UVM, a state-of-the-art boat for conducting research on the lake will bear the name Marcelle.
Leahy’s name adorns much of the legislation he helped shepherd. A champion for human rights, Leahy says he’s proud of his work to ban the export of anti-personnel landmines.
“I’d like to think that [through] the Leahy War Victims Fund and my landline programs, we’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives all throughout the world,” he said. “People I’ll never meet, never know, but I’ve saved their life.”
When asked what he hopes people would say about his legacy, Leahy was quick to respond.
“That I was a Vermonter, representing Vermont values,” he said. “Honest, kept my word, worked for the people in Vermont and the people throughout the country.”