A day after announcing he will not seek reelection, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told his colleagues in an emotional speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday that they have become like family to him over the last nearly 47 years.
The 81-year-old Leahy, who as the Senate’s president pro tempore is third in line to the presidency, said that he’s been honored to fight for Vermont and that he did not make the decision to retire lightly.
“Here’s the thing about the Senate. Here’s where small states like Vermont have not just a seat at the table but a voice at the table,” he said, noting that Vermont had championed farm-to-school programs and revitalization of historic downtowns, ideas that gained traction nationally.
He thanked his staff and his family, particularly his wife, Marcelle.
“My closest friend, my partner,” Leahy said. “The last couple of years have been challenging in ways we could never have imagined, but she was with me from the first moment of the first campaign.”
Leahy said he and his wife would return to Vermont, where they met and where they started a family. “It’s time to go home,” he said.
“We both look forward to the hard work the coming year will bring and know, with the same conviction that brought us to Washington in the first place, that the brighter horizons of tomorrow hold the hope of the future,” he said.
Noting the privilege he has felt in guiding the country toward the future, Leahy ended his speech with a catch in his voice. His colleagues gave him a standing ovation.