Senator Patrick Leahy perched on a narrow balcony on the west side of the US Capitol, soaking up panoramic views of the National Mall, the Washington Monument, and even the Lincoln Memorial.
“I miss this now,” he said.
As Leahy concludes his 48-year Senate career, Vermont senators bid farewell to Washington with a mixture of resignation and determination, lamenting the bipartisanism that now dominates Congress. , expressing hope that the institution he once knew will one day return. .
“If we don’t go back, this country will be seriously damaged,” he said. We are responsible to Americans, we are responsible to the world.”
Leahy, 82, is the president pro tempore of the Senate and the third president. He reflected on his career in an extensive interview with the Associated Press in his office in the Capitol on Monday, saying that when he first joined the Senate in 1975, colleagues with very different opinions still get things done. I remember finding a way.
“I think most[senators]knew the basic things the Senate should do, the basic things the country needs, and we had to find a way to come together,” Leahy said. said.
“Too many people are now thinking, ‘What am I going to say when I’m on the nightly news and being bombarded and being featured on this Twitter account? They don’t care about the country, they care about their political ambitions.”
The desire to work across the aisles hasn’t completely gone away. Leahy, who shapes federal spending as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, pointed to compromises in his $1.7 trillion government funding package announced this week. This was the pinnacle of his Leahy career, and he mostly helped negotiate in private.
“In the meantime, I never called a press conference, nor did any other senator who was there,” he said. “We were just trying to do our job. There are a lot of bills that don’t get passed, but they should pass because everyone is trying hard to get their point across. But you do.” not.
Leahy will formally resign on January 3 and his successor, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, will be sworn in. Leahy then plans to return to Vermont and work at the University of Vermont’s offices in Burlington, where his Senate records will be based. Leahy, the first in his family to go to college, said he wants to help rural youth get higher education.
As his tearful colleagues gathered in the chamber, Leahy delivered his final speech to the Senate on Tuesday, urging his colleagues to keep working.
“What a journey. I hope one day after I leave, the Senate of both parties will come back together and be the conscience of the nation,” he said in his speech. can build the Senate.
Longtime Congressman Peter Welch elected to replace Pat Leahy in US Senate
During his eight-term term in the Senate, Leahy had a long track record of chairing the Senate Appropriations, Judiciary, and Agriculture Committees, as well as being a top member of the opposition party. He is currently the longest-serving senator and his third alongside a president as interim president. He was the fourth-longest-serving senator in history, with nearly 17,000 votes.
Leahy has been active in judicial, criminal justice, gay rights, human rights, privacy and environmental issues. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he led Senate negotiations with the Bush administration on the Patriot Act, a sweeping anti-terrorism bill that responded to the attacks.
One of his first significant votes in 1975 was against continued funding for the Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
He helped establish the organic food industry, which is now worth about $60 billion. He helped create the world’s first ban on the export of anti-personnel landmines, brought hundreds of jobs to Vermont and millions of dollars to help clean up his beloved Lake Champlain.
Leahy took office when Vermont was still largely considered a Republican bastion. It is now considered one of the most progressive places in the country.
“We’ve changed. We’re more diversified, and that’s better for Vermont,” he said. It’s not about creating real jobs and working hard to create housing for people so[they]can stay in Vermont.”
After two New Hampshire state troopers, a judge and a newspaper editor were shot dead in Coalbrook, New Hampshire in 1997, the violence spilled over to Vermont, and Leahy funds bulletproof vests for police officers. I started exercising. Since then, 1.4 million vests have been distributed nationwide under the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act.
Known as an accomplished photographer, Leahy took advantage of nearby power sources to get his camera where others couldn’t. He captured candid images of goofy hat-wearing George HW his President Bush and Joe his Biden Senator and his wife Jill on a bench near the Eiffel Tower during a NATO meeting.
Among his favorite photographs that hang in his office are haunting photographs taken in refugee camps in Central America in the 1980s. The photo is of an older man with gray hair and stubble.
“I read from his face, ‘You don’t know me. You don’t speak my language. I can’t do anything to help you. To help people like me.’ “I looked at that picture of conscience every day and thought, How can I make life better for the people of Vermont, our country, and the rest of the world?” can you?”
Leahy has a quirky side. He loves the Batman comic books, has made cameo appearances in his five Batman movies, and has voiced characters in the animated Batman movies. He could also have fun in the Senate, where he recalled once being in the Army’s Golden He Knights where he parachuted skydiving with his team.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, he replied: “I want to leave a legacy of keeping my promises.”
Then, after showing us some of our favorite spots around the Capitol, Leahy stopped at the Rotunda with its massive domed ceiling, paintings and statues. It is the heart of American democracy and the state’s final resting place for former presidents and national heroes.
“When I first came here with my parents as a teenager, I was in awe,” said Leahy. “Every time I walk here, I get lost in the same way as a tourist, and I still do. And I leave here on my last day to see it again.