Patrick Leahy

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For other people named Patrick Leahy, see Patrick Leahy (disambiguation).
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
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by Orrin Hatch
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
In office
January 4, 2007 – January 6, 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
In office
January 3 – 20, 2001
Preceded by Orrin Hatch
Succeeded by Orrin Hatch
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
In office
January 4, 1987 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Jesse Helms
Succeeded by Richard Lugar
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Leahy
(1940-03-31) March 31, 1940 (age 75)
Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Marcelle Pomerleau
Children 3
Alma mater Saint Michael's College
Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

Patrick Joseph Leahy (/ˈlh/;[1] born March 31, 1940) is the senior United States Senator from Vermont, in office since 1975. A member of the Democratic Party, Leahy served as the President pro tempore of the United States Senate from December 17, 2012 to January 6, 2015; as President pro tempore, he was third in the presidential line of succession. He is the most senior senator and took office at a younger age than any other current senator. Leahy received the title of President pro tempore emeritus upon the commencement of the 114th Congress.

Leahy is the only elected Democratic Senator in Vermont's history. He is the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee worked extensively on prison reform with the introduction on a number of bills aimed at reforming the overcrowded prisons. The bills include: the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013, and the Public Safety Enhancement Act.

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 during the 19th century to work at quarries.[2]

He graduated from Saint Michael's College in 1961 and received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1964. He practiced as a lawyer until he was elected as State's Attorney of Chittenden County in 1966 and re-elected in 1970.

Leahy married Marcelle Pomerleau in 1962; she is bilingual with French Canadian heritage from Quebec immigrants in Vermont. They reside in a farmhouse in Middlesex, Vermont that they moved to from Burlington, and have three children. Leahy celebrated his fiftieth anniversary with his wife, saying ‘‘We hate it when we’re apart from one another.’’[3] Leahy is legally blind in one eye.

U.S. Senator[edit]

Early career (1975–1999)[edit]

An early Senate photo 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 M. Nixon in August of that year. He won a close race against Vermont's lone congressman, Richard Mallary. Leahy succeeded retiring 34-year incumbent George Aiken.[4] At 34 years old, he was the youngest Senator in Vermont history.[5] Leahy was nearly defeated in 1980 by Republican Stewart Ledbetter, winning by only 2,700 votes amid Ronald Reagan's landslide victory.[6] In 1986, he faced what was on paper an even stronger challenger in former governor Richard Snelling, but Leahy turned back this challenge, taking 64 percent of the vote. In 1992, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Douglas held him to 54 percent of the vote. Leahy hasn't faced a substantive Republican challenger since then.

Leahy was the first non-Republican Senator from Vermont since 1856. As of 2014, 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 switched to become an Independent. His successor, Bernie Sanders was elected as an Independent; he won and then refused the Democratic Party nomination in 2006.

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.[7]

Later career (1999–present)[edit]

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.[citation needed]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[8] 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.[9][10]

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 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".[11][12] 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."[13]

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.[14]

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[15] 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.[16]

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

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 of the United States 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.[17]

Leahy endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and recorded a radio advertisement for the Obama campaign to be aired in Vermont.[18]

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.[19]

In May 2011, Leahy introduced the Protect IP Act (PIPA) to the Senate. The bill was drafted to give the US government and copyright holders additional tools to fight copyright piracy and counterfeit goods trafficking by foreign rogue websites. Critics of the bill say that 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.[20]

Senator Leahy 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 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.[21][22]

According to GovTrack, Leahy is the Senator who has sponsored the most bipartisan bills. 61% of bills had both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.[23]

Committee assignments[edit]

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

Political positions[edit]

Leahy speaks 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 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.[24]

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 foreign and UN aid that inhibits gun ownership.[24]

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.[24]

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. 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.[24]

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.[24]

Leahy was a long-time 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.[24] 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.[25]

Leahy has always opposed the opening and operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[26][27]


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.[28]

The Congressional Management Foundation awarded Leahy a "Silver Mouse Award" for his use of the Internet in his Senate work.[29]

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 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."[citation needed]

Leahy is a published photographer.[30] 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.[31]

Comic book fan[edit]

A big fan of Batman comics, Leahy wrote the forward to The Dark Knight Archives, Volume 1, a 1992 hardcover anthology of the first four issues of the Batman comic book; and the introduction to Green Arrow: the Archer’s Quest, a 2003 hardcover anthology of six issues of the Green Arrow comic book.

Leahy has also had several cameo appearances in Batman television and films. He voiced the Governor of the Utah territory in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown" (1995), appeared as himself in Batman & Robin (1997), and appeared twice in the Dark Knight Trilogy as a Wayne Enterprises board member. In The Dark Knight (2008), he told The Joker "We're not intimidated by thugs", to which the Joker replied, "You know, you remind me of my father. I hated my father."[32] In The Dark Knight Rises (2012), he defended the legacy of the Wayne family against attempts to usurp the company by industrialist John Daggett.[33] Leahy will also appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in an as yet unspecified role.[34]

All royalties and fees from Leahy's roles are donated to charities and the Kellogg-Hubbard library in Vermont where he read comic books as a child.[35]

Electoral history[edit]


  1. ^ Voice of America pronunciation guide. (2010-09-23). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  2. ^ "Senate's Leahy finds peace on his Vermont farm". Associated Press. July 6, 2009. 
  3. ^ " - Sen. Leahy and wife, Marcelle, celebrate 50 years". Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ United States Senate (April 15, 2013). "Vermont's United States Senators". 
  5. ^ The Associated Press, ed. "Patrick Leahy sworn in as president pro tempore of Senate after Daniel Inouye's death". The Oregonian. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Senator - 1980 General Election Results - Vermont". April 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ Engelberg, Stephen (July 29, 1987). "Iran-Contra Hearings; Senator Leahy Says He Leaked Report Of Panel". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  8. ^ Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001. Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  9. ^ House Judiciary Committee Asserts Jurisdiction Over "Anti-Leak" Provision. Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  10. ^ Sens. Leahy, Grassley, and Schumer Urge Deferral of New Leak Statute. Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  11. ^ 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 25 – Countdown with Keith Olbermann. MSNBC (2007-07-26). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  12. ^ "Cheney Dismisses Critic With Obscenity". The Washington Post. June 25, 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  13. ^ Leahy relishing rise to power: Times Argus Online. (2006-12-10). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  14. ^ Techies Blast Induce Act. Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  15. ^ "Patrick Leahy – Gay Marriage". Retrieved July 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ Good Government Award Home Page. Project On Government Oversight Website. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  17. ^ "U.S. 'knew damn well' Arar would be tortured: senator". CBC News. January 18, 2007. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Read The Bill: S. 3804 [111th. GovTrack (2010-09-20). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  20. ^ Ned Potter (January 17, 2012). "Wikipedia Blackout: Websites Wikipedia, Reddit, Others Go Dark Wednesday to Protest SOPA, PIPA". ABC News. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "2013 Report Cards". GovTrack. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Patrick Leahy on the Issues". Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  25. ^ Blake, Aaron (June 24, 2013). "Leahy proposes new oversight of surveillance programs". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  26. ^ Patrick Leahy (2013-05-18). "Leahy responds to Gitmo criticism". Battleboro Reformer. Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. Mr. Evers and I agree that the status quo at Guantanamo is unacceptable. I was one of few in the Senate who strongly opposed the decision to open the prison a decade ago, and I continue to believe that the prison at Guantanamo must be closed. Mr. Evers apparently missed it, but my most recent statement about the need to close Guantanamo, two weeks ago, is on my website for all to see at As I said in that statement, the Guantanamo prison is not necessary to keep America safe, it contradicts our most basic principles of justice, and it undermines our national security. 
  27. ^ Patrick Leahy (2013-04-30). "Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Committee On The Judiciary, On The President’s Remarks Tuesday On Guantanamo Bay". United States Senate. Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued the following comment Tuesday after President Barack Obama reiterated his position that the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed – a view that Leahy has long shared. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "112th Congress Gold Mouse Award Winners". Congressional Management Foundation. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  30. ^ Roger Simon (2007-08-01). "Leahy attacks Bush, Roberts". Politico. Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2013-05-18. Instead, it contains pictures that Leahy, a published photographer, has taken. The centerpiece -- placed, Leahy says, so he can stare into it every day from his desk -- is a haunting one of a man he met in a refugee camp in El Salvador in 1982. 
  31. ^ Friedman, Jeanette (27 October 2010). "What Is Patrick Leahy's Religion?". Politics Daily. Archived from the original on 18 September 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  32. ^ Belluck, Pam (2008-07-12). "Holy Cameo, Batman! It’s a Senator!". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. Retrieved 2013-05-18. 
  33. ^ McDevitt, Caitlin (2012-07-03). "Leahy making another 'Dark Knight' cameo". Politico. Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2013-05-18. The Vermont Democrat, who’s a big Batman fan, also made an appearance in the “The Dark Knight” a few years ago. In the scene, the Joker, played by Heath Ledger, holds Leahy at knifepoint. 
  34. ^ Affleck, Ben (March 26, 2015). "Opening Statement, Senate hearing on diplomacy". C-SPAN. 
  35. ^ "Senator Leahy has Speaking Role in Upcoming Batman Film". The Hill. July 3, 2012. 

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
Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
George Aiken
United States Senator (Class 3) from Vermont
Served alongside: Robert Stafford, Jim Jeffords, Bernie Sanders
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Jesse Helms
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
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Richard Lugar
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Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
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Orrin Hatch
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Arlen Specter
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