Patrick Joseph Leahy (born March 31, 1940) is the senior United States Senator from Vermont and member of the Democratic Party. He is the first and only elected Democratic United States Senator in Vermont's history. He is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy is the second most senior U.S. Senator.
Patrick Leahy was born in Montpelier, Vermont, the son of Alba (née Zambon) and Howard Francis Leahy, a printer. His grandparents came to Vermont from Ireland and Italy during the 19th century to work at quarries.Leahy graduated from Saint Michael's College in 1961 and received his J.D.
degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1964. He practiced as a lawyer until he was elected for four terms as State's Attorney of Chittenden County from 1966 to 1974. Leahy was elected to the United States Senate for the first time in 1974 (at 34, he was the youngest U.S. Senator ever to be elected by Vermont). Leahy was the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Vermont and remains the only Democrat to have been elected Senator from Vermont. He was also the first non-Republican Senator from Vermont since 1856. Leahy married Marcelle Pomerleau in 1962. They reside in a farmhouse in Middlesex, Vermont that they moved to from Burlington, and have three children. Leahy is legally blind in one eye.
Early career (1974-1997)
Leahy was nearly defeated in 1980 by Republican Stewart Ledbetter, winning by only 2,700 votes amid Ronald Reagan's landslide victory. Richard Snelling, but Leahy turned back this challenge fairly easily, taking 63 percent of the vote. In 1992, he faced another fairly credible opponent in then-Secretary of State Jim Douglas, winning by 11 points. Leahy is the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate by Vermont, and is technically one of only three Democrats to represent Vermont in either house of Congress since the end of the Civil War. However, his election inaugurated Vermont's trend towards the Democratic party, and since 2001, two other Vermont Senators have caucused with the Democrats. Jim Jeffords was elected as a Republican before he switched to become an Independent, while Bernie Sanders was elected as an Independent; he won and then refused the Democratic Party nomination. During his tenure as Vice-Chairman of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1987, Leahy showed an unclassified draft report on the Iran-Contra affair to a news reporter. 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 the Intelligence Committee rules, and Leahy said he hastened his already planned departure from the committee because he was so angry at himself. He was chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee from 1987 until 1995 and was then chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 2001 until 2003, and regained the chairmanship in 2007. He is one of the key Democratic leaders on Senate issues on rules for filling federal judgeships via advise and consent. Leahy serves as third-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. Currently, he is the second-longest serving member of the Senate, behind only Daniel Inouye. He thus has a high ranking in the order of precedence in protocol. He is also the longest serving Senator in Vermont's history.
In 1986, he faced what was on paper an even stronger challenger in former governor
Later career (1998-present)
The 1998 election was noteworthy in that Leahy had the endorsement of his Republican opponent, Fred Tuttle. Tuttle was the lead actor in the movie Man with a Plan, shot in Vermont, in which a farmer decides to run for the House. Tuttle told voters to vote for Leahy because he didn't want to move to Washington D.C. Leahy was touched by this gesture; he once said that Tuttle was the "distilled essence of Vermonthood". 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. Leahy is regarded as one of the leading privacy advocates in Congress.Leahy is heard often on the issue of land mines. In 2000, Senator 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 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. On June 22, 2004, Leahy and Vice President Dick Cheney participated in the US 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." 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."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.On November 2, 2004, Leahy easily defeated his opponent, businessman Jack McMullen, with 70.6 percent 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 on 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 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Leahy voted for the Defense of Marriage Act 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.
On March 2, 2006, Leahy was one of 10 senators who voted 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 to make interim appointments without term limit, and without 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.Leahy endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and recorded a radio advertisement for the Obama campaign to be aired in Vermont.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.
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 been supported by the NAACP and is outspoken in his support for affirmative action. Leahy has been one of the most gay rights-friendly members of Congress; 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.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 and plans for abstinence-only sex education. 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. 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 US foreign aid that inhibits gun ownership.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. Leahy has consistently voted to uphold Social Security and has opposed school vouchers.Leahy has been a strong supporter of environmental policy. He has supported bills that would increase hydrogen car production, uphold CAFE standards, set a goal of reducing oil consumption by 40 percent in 2025, and increase solar and wind power funding. 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.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 the most controversial of free trade proposals, such as CAFTA and NAFTA, but supported normalizing trade relations with China.Leahy has been a long-time critic of the Iraq War. He has spoken in favor of timetables for troop withdrawal and has stated that the country needs well-trained foreign service and civilian workers to help fix the damage in Iraq. He has been critical of the PATRIOT Act.
Leahy is a fan of the Grateful Dead. He has not only attended concerts, but has taped them, and 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 fundraisers 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 website 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." In a 1994 interview on ABC News, Leahy claimed that, while attending Georgetown Law School, he obtained tickets to see The Beatles' first full U.S. concert, at the Washington Coliseum, inviting a classmate, who declined, saying that the Beatles were a fad. Leahy declined to identify the classmate, but added, "He hasn't gone on to become a very good lawyer, either." A fan of U2, Leahy has a picture mounted on the wall of his office of himself, his wife, President Bill Clinton and Bono. On it, Bono drew an arrow pointed to himself, with the caption, "Would you trust this man with your children?" Leahy is quoted on Loung Ung's website: "In this gripping narrative Loung Ung describes the unfathomable evil that engulfed Cambodia during her childhood, the courage that enabled her family to survive, and the determination that has made her an eloquent voice for peace and justice in Cambodia. It is a tour de force that strengthens our resolve to prevent and punish crimes against humanities." The book he is referring to is Lucky Child. Leahy is a published photographer.A big fan of Batman comics, Leahy lent his voice in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown". He appeared in a cameo role in the 1997 film Batman and Robin, and in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. Patrick Leahy wrote the introduction to the collected edition of Green Arrow: the Archer's Quest and the foreword to the first volume of The Dark Knight Archives, a hardcover reprinting of the first four issues of the Batman comic book.
June 15th, 2011