Mon. Dec 4th, 2023
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, currently the Senate’s longest-serving member, announced his retirement today.
  • Leahy presided over Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial in his capacity as Senate president pro tempore.
  • Leahy said it was time to “pass the torch” on to the next generation in his speech.

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Sen. Patrick Leahy, the US Senate’s longest-serving member, announced Monday that he will not run for re-election. 

The Vermont Democrat’s retirement leaves his Senate seat open ahead of next year’s 2022 midterm elections, though the race is not expected to be competitive after President Joe Biden’s over 2-to-1 victory over former President Donald Trump in the “Green Mountain State” last year.

“I’m proud to be Vermont’s longest-serving senator,” Leahy said in a Monday news conference at the Vermont state capitol. “And while I will continue to serve Vermont, Marcelle and I have reached the conclusion that it’s time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter and carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home.”

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, currently the state’s sole House member, is considered a strong contender to succeed Leahy.

Leahy, first elected to the Senate as part of the “Watergate Babies” Democratic wave in 1974 following the resignation of President Richard Nixon, is currently the Senate’s president pro tempore, having previously served that role from 2012 to 2015 when Democrats last held a majority in the Senate.  

“I came to the Senate in a kind of constitutional crisis,” the 81-year-old Leahy noted during his speech. 

In his capacity as president pro tempore, he presided over Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial, where the Senate failed to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection. Seven Republicans joined with every Democratic senator to convict the former president, but backers of impeachment failed to reach 66 votes.

As president pro tempore, Leahy is 3rd in the presidential line of succession, behind Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Leahy is currently the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, though he’s also served as chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and Agriculture Committee.

Despite Vermont’s overwhelmingly liberal politics, Leahy is the only Democrat ever successfully elected to the US Senate from the state.

The state’s other long-serving senator — Bernie Sanders — technically remains a registered independent, despite his caucusing with Democrats in the Senate and running as a Democrat in the president elections of 2016 and 2020. Prior to Leahy and Sanders’ tenures, Vermont had mostly elected Republicans, and is currently led by a Republican governor, Gov. Phil Scott. 

As Leahy announced his retirement, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa — the Senate’s 2nd-longest serving senator who opted to run for re-election this year — tweeted that the two were “gr8 friends” and that he was sad to see the Vermont Democrat retire.


By senior