Patrick Leahy

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Patrick Leahy
United States Senator
from Vermont
Assumed office
January 3, 1975
Serving with Bernie Sanders
Preceded by George Aiken
President pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Ted Stevens
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
December 17, 2012 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by Orrin Hatch
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Arlen Specter
Succeeded by Chuck Grassley
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Orrin Hatch
Succeeded by Orrin Hatch
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Jesse Helms
Succeeded by Richard Lugar
State's Attorney of Chittenden County
In office
May 10, 1966 – January 2, 1975
Preceded by John Fitzpatrick
Succeeded by Francis Murray
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Leahy
(1940-03-31) March 31, 1940 (age 78)
Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Marcelle Pomerleau (m. 1962)
Children 3
Education Saint Michael's College (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)
Website Senate website

Patrick Joseph Leahy (/ˈlhi/; born March 31, 1940) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Vermont, a seat to which he was first elected in 1974. A member of the Democratic Party, Leahy held the position of President pro tempore of the United States Senate from December 17, 2012, to January 6, 2015, and was thus during that time third in the presidential line of succession. Now in his eighth six-year term of office, he is currently (since the December 2012 death of Daniel Inouye) the most senior member of the Senate, and is also the last of the Senate's "Watergate Babies" – Democrats first elected to Congress in 1974, following President Richard Nixon's August 9, 1974 resignation over the Watergate scandal.[1] Additionally, Leahy remains one of the only two sitting U.S. Senators, the other being Orrin Hatch of Utah, to have served during the presidency of Gerald Ford. Leahy received the title of President pro tempore emeritus in January 2015.

The current dean of the state's congressional delegation, Leahy is Vermont's longest-serving U.S. Senator, and as of 2018 is the only Democrat the state has ever elected to the Senate. He is the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and serves as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In 2001, Leahy was one of the two U.S. Senators targeted by the anthrax attacks that killed five people.

After the resignation of John Conyers in 2017, he became the longest-serving Democrat in the current 115th Congress. [2][3]

Early life and family[edit]

Leahy was born in Montpelier, Vermont, the son of Alba (née Zambon) and Howard Francis Leahy, a printer. His maternal grandparents were Italian, and his father was of Irish ancestry; some of his ancestors came to Vermont in the 19th century to work at quarries.[4]

He graduated from Saint Michael's College in 1961 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, and received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1964.[5] He was an associate at the firm headed by Philip H. Hoff, then Governor of Vermont.[6] In May 1966 Hoff appointed him to fill a vacancy as State's Attorney of Chittenden County.[7] Leahy was elected to a full term in 1966[8] and reelected in 1970.[9] His service as state's attorney was notable for his participation in a sting operation that caught Paul Lawrence, an undercover police officer for several agencies in Vermont who falsely claimed to have purchased illegal drugs from several people, which resulted in convictions based on his false testimony.[10]

Leahy married Marcelle Pomerleau in 1962; she is bilingual with French Canadian heritage from Quebecois immigrants to Vermont. They have resided in a farmhouse in Middlesex, Vermont, since moving from Burlington, and have three children. In 2012 the Leahys celebrated their 50th anniversary, with Leahy saying, ‘‘We hate it when we’re apart from one another.’’[11] Leahy has been legally blind in his left eye since birth.[12][13]

U.S. Senator[edit]

Early career (1975–1999)[edit]

1979 Senate portrait of Leahy

Leahy was elected to the United States Senate for the first time in November 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal that had resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August of that year. He won a close race against Vermont's lone congressman, Richard Mallary, and succeeded retiring 34-year incumbent George Aiken.[14] At 34 years old, he was the youngest Senator in Vermont history.[15] As of 2015, Leahy and Minnesota Representative Rick Nolan are the only two remaining Watergate Babies in Congress, though Nolan left Congress in 1981 and returned in 2013. With Nolan retiring from Congress in 2018, Leahy is expected to become the only remaining Watergate baby serving in Congress.[16]

Leahy was nearly defeated in 1980 by Republican Stewart Ledbetter, winning by only 2,700 votes amid Ronald Reagan's landslide victory.[17] In 1986, he faced what was on paper an even stronger challenger in former Governor Richard Snelling, but Leahy turned it back, taking 64 percent of the vote. In 1992, Secretary of State of Vermont Jim Douglas held him to 54 percent of the vote. Leahy has not faced a substantive Republican challenger since then.

Leahy was the first non-Republican Senator from Vermont since 1856. As of 2016, he is the only Democrat ever elected to the Senate from Vermont, and one of only three Democrats to represent Vermont in either house of Congress since the end of the Civil War. However, since 2001, two other Vermont Senators have caucused with the Democrats. Jim Jeffords was elected as a Republican before he became an Independent. His successor, Bernie Sanders, was elected as an Independent; he won and then refused the Democratic Party nomination in 2006.

In May 1981, Leahy and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy requested that the Senate reject the nomination of John Crowell Jr. as Assistant Agriculture Secretary, with Leahy stating his opposition was "because documents have been uncovered since his approval by the Agriculture Committee which suggest that he was aware of and involved in the anti-competitive and monopolistic practices of his former employer."[18] Leahy and Kennedy contended that Crowell concealed his involvement with Louisiana-Pacific, Panhandle Logging Company, and Ketchikan Spruce Mills during the confirmation process.[19] Crowell was confirmed by the Senate.[20]

In 1981, Leahy introduced an amendment that would have increased the enforcement budget for the Energy Department by $13 million. He called the Reagan administration's cuts to the enforcement budget "de facto amnesty" for violations made by alleged increases in prices for oil companies. The amendment was defeated in the Senate on October 28, by a vote of 48 to 43.[21]

On December 2, 1981, Leahy voted in favor[22] of an amendment to President Reagan's MX missiles proposal that would divert the silo system by $334 million as well as earmark further research for other methods that would allow giant missiles to be based. The vote was seen as a rebuff of the Reagan administration.[23][24]

In March 1982, Leahy was named to the Senate Select Committee to Study Law Enforcement Undercover Activities of the Department of Justice, an eight-member select committee formed to investigate undercover operations.[25] The resolution introducing the committee was the result of the resignation of Harrison Williams for his involvement in the Abscam sting operation.[26][27]

On December 23, 1982, Leahy voted in favor[28] of a 5¢ per gallon increase on gasoline taxes across the US to aid the financing of highway repairs and mass transit. The bill passed on the last day of the 97th United States Congress.[29][30]

On October 19, 1983, Leahy voted in favor of a bill establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.[31] Reagan signed the legislation the following month.[32]

In March 1984, Leahy voted against a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing periods in public school for silent prayer,[33] and against Reagan's unsuccessful proposal for a constitutional amendment permitting organized school prayer in public schools.[34][35]

In 1987, during his tenure as Vice-Chairman of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Leahy showed a news reporter an unclassified draft report on the Iran-Contra affair. At a press conference, Leahy stated, "Even though it was declassified, I was way too careless about it," and accepted blame. Disclosure of that information was against Intelligence Committee rules, and Leahy said he hastened his already planned departure from the committee because he was so angry at himself.[36]

In February 1992, the Bush administration and Israeli officials struggled to compose a deal that would entice both sides to proceed with a loan guarantee package. After a meeting between Secretary of State James Baker and Zalman Shoval failed to generate a compromise,[37] Baker informed Leahy of the meeting's contents and Leahy announced that he would be introducing his own compromise plan in the event that the United States and Israel could not come to an agreement in the following weeks.[38] Later that month, the Bush administration announced the United States would present Israel with loan guarantees only if the Israeli government halted settlement building. Leahy was supportive of the measure and introduced his own proposal that retained the $10 billion in loan guarantees, but "disbursed at a pace up to $2 billion a year for five years."[39]

On November 20, 1993, Leahy voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement.[40] The trade agreement linked the United States, Canada and Mexico into a single free trade zone, and was signed into law on December 8 by President Bill Clinton.[41]

Clinton publicly weighed reducing funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) by half. In March 1994, during a news conference, Leahy pledged that he would preserve funding for TEFAP, noting his 1987 lawsuit against Agriculture Secretary Richard Edmund Lyng and declaring that TEFAP maintained the same level of significance as it did then.[42] In August 1994, Leahy attended a news conference with the health advocacy group Public Voice as it urged the federal government to take more ambitious steps to increase the healthiness of school lunches, Leahy praising the 41 schools involved with Public Voice for setting a good example for the remainder of the country and citing the importance of school lunches to education.[43] The 1994 midterm elections resulted in Republicans taking a majority in the House for the first time since the 1950s,[44] and conversation arose of limiting feeding programs. Leahy remarked, "Not since the Great Depression has the possibility of millions of children lining up at soup kitchens been so real."[45] Leahy cosponsored legislation with Republican Richard Lugar that led to the downsizing of the Agriculture Department. In December 1994, it announced it was closing 1,274 field offices around the US, a scaling back that was estimated to save the United States over $3 billion within the following five years. Leahy said the Agriculture Department was the only federal agency to be successful in downsizing efforts and called on other agencies to follow its example.[46]

In 1994, Leahy introduced legislation to encourage schools to ban sort drinks and other food items of "minimal nutritional value."[47] Leahy acknowledged the benefits vending provided for other positive areas: "These vending profits go for good causes. But when it comes to vending machine junk food, it would be better to put pupils ahead of vending profits." The legislation was met with opposition by the Coca-Cola Company and other representatives from the beverage industry as well as some education organizations.[48] The law was enacted.

In October 1999, Leahy voted in favor of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The treaty was designed to ban underground nuclear testing and was the first major international security pact to be defeated in the Senate since the Treaty of Versailles.[49][50]

Later career (1999–present)[edit]

The 1998 election was noteworthy in that Leahy had the endorsement of his Republican opponent, Fred Tuttle. Tuttle was a retired farmer and the lead actor in the mock documentary film Man with a Plan, shot in Vermont, in which a farmer decides to run for Congress. After winning the Republican nomination in a campaign designed to both promote the movie and mock ostensible GOP frontrunner Jack McMullen, who had only recently moved to Vermont, Tuttle recommended that voters support Leahy. Leahy was touched by this gesture; he and Tuttle made several joint appearances during the campaign, and Leahy said of Tuttle that he was the "distilled essence of Vermonthood".

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center shifted American foreign policy focus to terrorism. In December 2006, during an appearance at the law school of Georgetown University, Leahy said that after the September 11 attacks, "the White House accelerated its power plays at the expense of the other branches of government, all in the name of fighting terrorism." He added that the administration had declined to answer "the legitimate oversight questions of the public's duly elected representatives" as well as broken the law by wiretapping Americans without warrants.[51] On September 13, 2002, Leahy said in a radio interview that an investigation should be launched into whether the West Nile virus was a biological terrorism effort.[52] During a July 1, 2007, interview, Leahy said he was not against lawful eavesdropping and recommended a revision to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act so potential terrorists could be investigated without question.[53] Leahy added that the White House had been subpoenaed so Bush administration officials could explain "the legal justification they tried to follow when, for years, they wiretapped ordinary Americans and everyone else put out a warrant."[53]

Leahy was one of two Senators targeted in the 2001 anthrax attacks. The anthrax letter meant for him was intercepted before it reached his office. In 2004, Leahy was awarded the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Champion of Freedom Award for efforts in information privacy and open government. He is regarded as one of the leading privacy advocates in Congress.[54]

Leahy is heard often on the issue of land mines.

In 2000, Leahy cosigned a letter sent to Appropriations Committee conference members, requesting a delay in implementing Section 304 in H.R. 4392, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001[55] until it could be fully considered by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The amendment would introduce new felony crime laws concerning the unauthorized disclosure of information. Leahy and his colleagues indicated this would be in conflict with existing First Amendment rights and Whistleblower Protection Acts.[56][57]

Former Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV, far right) shakes hands with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates while Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT, center right) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) look on. The hearing was held to discuss further funding for the War in Iraq.

On June 22, 2004, Leahy and Vice President Dick Cheney participated in the U.S. Senate class photo. After the vote, Cheney was only talking to Republicans. When Leahy asked him to come over and talk to the Democrats, Cheney upbraided Leahy for the Senator's recent excoriations of Halliburton's activities in Iraq. At the end of the exchange, Cheney told Leahy, "Go fuck yourself".[58][59] Leahy joked about the incident in 2007 when he escorted Bernie Sanders, Vermont's newly elected senator, to the well of the Senate where he was sworn in by Cheney: "When it comes to the vice president, it's always better to be sworn in than to be sworn at."[60]

In March 2004, Leahy and Orrin Hatch introduced the Pirate Act backed by the RIAA. In July 2004, Leahy and Hatch introduced the INDUCE Act. Both were aimed at combating copyright infringement.[61]

On November 2, 2004, Leahy easily defeated his opponent, businessman Jack McMullen, with 70.6% of the vote. On January 5, 2005, Leahy was sworn in for his sixth term in the Senate by Cheney.

On September 21, 2005, Leahy announced his support for John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. On January 19, 2006, Leahy announced that he would vote against Judge Samuel Alito to be a justice of the Supreme Court. He has a mixed record on gun control, being one of the few Senate Democrats to vote against the Brady Bill. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is in favor of phasing out farm subsidies that are supported by the populist wing of the Democratic Party. He voted against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Leahy voted for the Defense of Marriage Act[62] and was one of the few in his party to support the ban on intact dilation and extraction procedures.

In 2005, Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, presented Leahy and Senator John Cornyn with its first ever Bi-Partisan Leadership Award in honor of their cooperation on issues of government oversight and transparency, including their co-sponsorship of the OPEN Government Act of 2005, which prevented burying exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act in legislation.[63]

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

On March 2, 2006, Leahy was one of 10 senators to vote against the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, a bill to extend the USA PATRIOT Act. The Reauthorization Act changed the appointment process for interim United States attorneys, allowing the Attorney General of the United States to make interim appointments without term limit or Senatorial confirmation. This was an aspect of hearings in the dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. Both houses voted to overturn the interim appointment provision in March 2007.

On January 18, 2007, Leahy received widespread coverage for his cross-examination of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the Maher Arar affair and the extraordinary rendition of Arar to Syria.[64]

Leahy endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and recorded a radio advertisement for the Obama campaign to be aired in Vermont.[65]

On September 20, 2010, Leahy introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, Senate Bill S. 3804, which would allow the court to issue a restraining order or injunction against Internet domain names which infringe upon copyright.[66]

In May 2011, Leahy introduced the Protect IP Act (PIPA) to the Senate. The bill was drafted to give the U.S. government and copyright holders additional tools to fight copyright piracy and counterfeit goods trafficking by foreign rogue websites. Critics of the bill said it would be ineffective, impede free expression on the internet, and interfere with its infrastructure. Leahy subsequently indicated that he would favor further research into provisions that raised objections.[67]

Leahy was chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee from 1987 until 1995 and chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 2001 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2015. He is one of the key Democratic leaders on Senate issues on rules for filling federal judgeships via advise and consent. Leahy serves as second-highest Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. In his position as the second-highest Democrat on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Leahy serves as Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition and General Legislation.

Upon the death of Senate President pro tempore Daniel Inouye on December 17, 2012, Leahy became the most senior senator in the majority party, and was elected as the new President pro tempore by unanimous consent.[68][69] He was succeeded in this post by Orrin Hatch on January 3, 2015, and became President pro tempore emeritus.

According to GovTrack, Leahy is the senator who has sponsored the most bipartisan bills. 61% of bills had both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.[70]

In July 2015, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was unveiled, an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran,[71] Leahy issued a statement saying it was preferable to war and calling it "unfortunate" that some members of Congress opposed the deal as the lack of deal would allow Iran to further develop nuclear weapons.[72][73]

In November 2017, Leahy was one of ten Democratic senators to sign a letter urging Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the planned demolitions of Palestinian villages Khan al-Ahmar and Sussiya on the grounds that such action would further diminish efforts to seek a two-state solution and "endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy."[74]

On January 18, 2018, Leahy announced he would not support the stopgap measure for the fiscal year to avert a government shutdown, saying the House bill left "too much undone, and it is woefully inadequate". Leahy added that bipartisan support for the bill would only come from collaborating with Democrats and charged Republicans with "appealing for our support only after they’ve written a mishmash bill crafted behind closed doors."[75][76] After the United States federal government shutdowns of 2018 commenced,[77] Leahy was one of 18 Senators to vote against temporary funding.[78]

In October 2018, Leahy, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez, and Lindsey Graham, sent President Trump a letter requesting that he begin an investigation of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The letter asked Trump to report the findings within 120 days along with a decision on whether to impose sanctions on those found responsible.[79]

Committee assignments[edit]

Patrick Leahy speaking at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Political positions[edit]

Leahy speaking during the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Leahy has held progressive political positions that are generally in line with those of the state.


He has generally supported abortion rights, rejecting proposals to limit minors or those stationed on military bases from having the procedure performed. He has voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 1995, and for it between 1997 and 2003.[81][82]

On March 11, 1982, Leahy voted against a measure sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch that sought to reverse Roe v. Wade and allow Congress and individual states to adopt laws banning abortions. Its passing was the first time a congressional committee supported an anti-abortion amendment.[83][84]


Leahy supports states' rights to make their own cannabis laws. He proposed a companion to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment which would extend protections to states that have legalized cannabis in some form. It became known as the Leahy Amendment, and prevents the federal government from spending federal tax dollars to prosecute people who are following their state's cannabis laws.[85][86]

Civil justice[edit]

Senator Leahy meeting with Chief Judge Merrick Garland, March 2016

In February 2016, Senator Leahy introduced the "Restoring Statutory Rights Act" [87] to "prevent companies from imposing forced arbitration in cases covered by consumer protection laws, as well as employment discrimination and other civil rights matters."[88][89]

Civil rights and privacy[edit]

He has been supported by the NAACP and is outspoken in his support for affirmative action. He has supported the legalization of gay marriage and reducing discrimination against gays and lesbians. Leahy has called for the domestic partners of federal employees to receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples.[90]

Leahy is a lead sponsor of the Senate version of the Email Privacy Act, which would reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and enhance privacy protections for email. Leahy sponsors this bipartisan bill with Republican Mike Lee of Utah.[91][92]

Criminal justice[edit]

Leahy has called for a moratorium on the death penalty and more DNA testing for death row inmates. He supports rehabilitation as the goal of prisons and providing treatment instead of punishment for first-time offenders.[citation needed]


Leahy was a longtime critic of the Iraq War, and spoke in favor of timetables for troop withdrawal, stating that the country needs well-trained employees in both foreign service and private industry to help repair damage to its civilian structure. He has been critical of the PATRIOT Act, even though he has voted to reauthorize altered versions of it.[90] In June 2013, following the disclosure of PRISM and other covert surveillance activities by the National Security Agency, Leahy introduced a bill that would tighten guidelines related to the acquisition of FISA warrants for domestic surveillance and shorten the current FISA authorization by two years.[93]

Leahy has always opposed the opening and operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[94][95]


On taxation, Leahy has consistently supported progressive rates. He has rejected proposals to remove the Estate Tax and Alternative Minimum Tax, and he has spoken out strongly against cutting taxes for the wealthy. Leahy has strongly supported the rights of employees, and has voted to increase the minimum wage and allow for more union organization. He has voted against a free trade proposal, CAFTA, but supported normalizing trade relations with China.[90]


Leahy has been a strong supporter of environmental policy. He has supported bills that would increase hydrogen car production, uphold Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, set a goal of reducing oil consumption by 40 percent in 2025, and increase solar and wind power funding.[citation needed]

Climate change[edit]

In 2011, he voted against limiting EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[96] In 2013, he voted against a concurrent resolution creating a point of order which would make it harder for Congress to put a price on carbon.[97][98] In 2015, he voted in support of Obama's Clean Power Plan.[99] On his Climate Change page, he states that "human activity, since the Industrial Revolution, has contributed, in large part, to the changes in climate".[100] He has supported the establishment of greenhouse gas tradeable allowances and has spoken out against the use of ethanol as a solution to rising gasoline prices.[90]

First Amendment[edit]

Leahy spoke strongly against a proposed constitutional ban on flag burning and on its implications for freedom of speech and expression. He rejects school prayer initiatives.[101]

Gun laws[edit]

Leahy has generally supported gun control, including requiring background checks at gun shows and allowing for lawsuits against firearms manufacturers. He voted in favor of prohibiting foreign and UN aid that inhibits gun ownership.[90]

Health care[edit]

Leahy has stated the importance of increasing the prevalence of public health care during times of economic downturn. He voted to increase Medicare benefits and to allow this organization to negotiate lower-priced, bulk prescriptions from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Leahy has broken with Democratic leadership in supporting allowing states to make bulk drug purchases on their own, an idea he has characterized as an important short-term solution until Congress can agree on a similar proposal.[citation needed]

In a May 2012 speech on the Senate floor, Leahy advocated that Chief Justice John Roberts uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act: "The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the court. Given the ideological challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the extensive, supportive precedent, it would be extraordinary for the Supreme Court not to defer to Congress in this matter that so clearly affects interstate commerce."[102]

In March 2017, after House Republicans withdrew the American Health Care Act, Leahy released a statement touting the accomplishments of the Affordable Care Act and charging Republicans with trying to undo the record with a bill that was really "a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans."[103]

In September 2017, Leahy was one of 16 Senators to co-sponsor the Medicare For All Act, introduced by his fellow Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, which would establish a Single Payer Healthcare system in the United States.

Human rights[edit]

In 2016 Leahy joined ten House of Representative members asking the State Department to investigate suspected human rights violations by Egyptian and Israeli security forces, in particular citing claims of extrajudicial killings which may trigger the Leahy Law, a law that can cause the suspension of all American military aid to countries guilty of such abuses.[104] While Leahy has signed resolutions in support of Israel's right to self-defense, he has also been critical of alleged human rights violations in the region, especially after the 2008 Operation Cast Lead. In 2011, Leahy initially promoted a bill to cut the military aid to three elite IDF units, after reports of human rights violations during the Gaza flotilla raid and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[105]


Leahy has consistently voted to uphold Social Security and has opposed school vouchers.[90]


In 2013, Leahy received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[106]

The Congressional Management Foundation awarded Leahy a "Silver Mouse Award" for his use of the Internet in his Senate work.[107]

Personal life[edit]

Leahy is a fan of the Grateful Dead. He has not only attended concerts, but has a collection of the band's tapes in his Senate Offices. Jerry Garcia visited him at his Senate offices, and Leahy gave a tie designed by Garcia to Senator Orrin Hatch (who responded by giving Leahy a Rush Limbaugh tie). Surviving band members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart have participated in fund-raisers for Leahy and his Political Action Committee, the Green Mountain Victory Fund. Leahy appeared in a videotaped tribute to the Dead when they received a lifetime achievement award at the 2002 Jammys. His Senate web-site notes this response to a question from seventh-grade students from Vermont's Thetford Academy who asked Leahy which Dead song was his favorite, he replied: "... my favorite is "Black Muddy River" but we always play "Truckin'" on election night at my headquarters."[citation needed]

Leahy is a published photographer.[108] He is a Roman Catholic who attends Saint Andrew's Church in Waterbury, Vermont. He also attends Holy Trinity Catholic Church when he is in Washington, D.C.[109]

In October 1991, Leahy was taken to Arlington Hospital for a series of tests following his becoming ill during the Senate vote to confirm Clarence Thomas as Associate Justice. His spokesman Joseph Jamele said the decision to go to a hospital was made after Leahy had a pain in his chest.[110]

Comic book fan[edit]

Leahy is a fan of comic books, and in particular the character Batman. He wrote the foreword to The Dark Knight Archives, Volume 1 (a 1992 collection of the first four Batman comic books), the preface essay for Batman: Death of Innocents (a 1996 graphic novel about the horrors of landmines), and the introduction to Green Arrow: the Archer's Quest (a single-volume collection of a six-issue story arc).

Leahy has also made several cameo appearances in Batman television episodes and films, beginning with an uncredited cameo in Batman Forever (1995).[111][112] He voiced a territorial governor in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown" (1995), appeared as himself in the film Batman & Robin (1997), and appeared twice in the Dark Knight Trilogy as a Wayne Enterprises board member. In The Dark Knight (2008), he tells the Joker "We're not intimidated by thugs", to which the Joker replies, "You know, you remind me of my father. I hated my father."[113] In The Dark Knight Rises (2012), he defended the legacy of the Wayne family against attempts to usurp the company by industrialist John Daggett.[114] Leahy also appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, playing Senator Purrington, in a scene set during a Senate hearing which is subsequently destroyed by an explosion.[115]

All royalties and fees from Leahy's roles are donated to charities, primarily the Kellogg–Hubbard library in Vermont where he read comic books as a child.[112][116]


Title Year Role Notes
Batman Forever 1995 Himself Uncredited Cameo[citation needed]
Batman: The Animated Series 1995 Territorial Governor 1 Episode: "Showdown"
Batman & Robin 1997 Himself Cameo
The Dark Knight 2008 Wayne Enterprises Board Member
The Dark Knight Rises 2012
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016 Senator Purrington

Electoral history[edit]


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  14. ^ United States Senate (April 15, 2013). "Vermont's United States Senators".
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  16. ^ "Nolan won't seek re-election". Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  17. ^ "U.S. Senator - 1980 General Election Results - Vermont" (PDF). April 15, 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 27, 2010.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Johnson
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
(Class 3)

1974, 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
George Aiken
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Vermont
Served alongside: Robert Stafford, Jim Jeffords, Bernie Sanders
Preceded by
Jesse Helms
Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Richard Lugar
Preceded by
Edward Zorinsky
Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Tom Harkin
Preceded by
Joe Biden
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Orrin Hatch
Preceded by
Orrin Hatch
Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Arlen Specter
Preceded by
Arlen Specter
Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Chuck Grassley
Preceded by
Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Dianne Feinstein
Preceded by
Barbara Mikulski
Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel Inouye
President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate
Succeeded by
Orrin Hatch
Honorary titles
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Daniel Inouye
Dean of the U.S. Senate
Most senior Democrat in the U.S. Senate
Title last held by
Ted Stevens
President pro tempore emeritus of the U.S. Senate
Order of precedence
First United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Orrin Hatch