Politics

After 8 terms, Leahy informs Senate ‘family’ in floor speech of his intentions to retire in 2023

One day after he first broke the news in his hometown of Montpelier, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., stood on the Senate floor in Washington to inform his colleagues of his plans to retire at the conclusion of his current term in 2023.

“I told the Vermonters that have humbled me since my first election to the Senate in 1974 that I will resign this seat at the conclusion of my term,” he said Tuesday morning. “It is a decision I do not come to lightly but one in which (my wife) Marcelle and I find great peace.”

Leahy, now 81, has served eight terms and nearly five decades as one of Vermont’s two senators, earning himself the title of longest-serving U.S. senator for Vermont in state history. When he announced his intentions to retire Monday, he did so from the room in the Vermont Statehouse where he announced his first campaign as a 33-year-old in March 1974.

“Here’s the thing about the Senate. Here is where small states like Vermont have not just a seat at the table but a voice at the table,” Leahy told his colleagues Tuesday.

And indeed, Leahy holds a major voice in the Senate. He chairs the highly influential Appropriations Committee — a post that recently allowed him to steer billions of federal dollars into Vermont to fund programs that politicians say will become Leahy’s legacy to the state. Before chairing the Appropriations Committee, he sat in the Judiciary Committee for two decades, playing a key role in the lifetime appointments of federal judges across the country.

With Leahy’s retirement, Vermont loses much of that seniority and experience. The state will now have its first open congressional seat since 2006, teeing up a rare opportunity to welcome a new face into the state’s three-person delegation.

Standing in the Capitol on Tuesday, Leahy thanked his staffers and his Senate colleagues, whom he referred to as his family. In those halls over the course of nearly five decades, he said he “found friends, some of the best friends, and relationships that will — and have — lasted a lifetime.”

“(T)he Senate has always been where I have come to fight for Vermont — a state that has been my home since birth, the place where I met Marcelle, where we started our family, and to which in early 2023, we will return. For good,” Leahy said Tuesday. “It’s time to go home.”

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Sarah Mearhoff

About Sarah

Sarah Mearhoff is one of VTDigger's political reporters, covering the Vermont statehouse, executive branch and congressional delegation. Prior to joining Digger, she covered Minnesota and South Dakota state politics for Forum Communications' newspapers across the Upper Midwest for three years. She has also covered politics in Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she is a proud alumna of the Pennsylvania State University where she studied journalism.

Email: [email protected]

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