sen.-patrick-leahy-announces-he-won’t-run-for-re-election

WASHINGTON — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., plans to retire at the end of his term, the veteran lawmaker told reporters in his home state on Monday.

“It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home,” Leahy said.

Leahy, 81, is the longest-serving current senator, having served since 1975. He currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee chair and is third in the line of succession to the presidency as president pro tempore of the Senate, after the vice president and the Speaker of the House. He was last re-elected in 2016.

Earlier this year, Leahy was hospitalized and under medical observation after feeling unwell.

The Senate is divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. If a seat were to become vacant or a senator were unable to attend votes, the balance of power could be upended.

Notably, Leahy presided over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

“When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” he said in a statement at the time.

The seat should be safe for Democrats, although Republicans are expected to hold the electoral advantage going into the 2022 midterms. President Joe Biden won Vermont by 35 percentage points in 2020.

The state’s other senator, Bernie Sanders, is considered one of the most liberal member of the Senate, though he technically not a Democrat, but an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, who represents the entire state in its single congressional district, is seen as the most likely person to replace Leahy, though he has not yet announced his intention to run.

In a statement, Welch called Leahy’s retirement “historic and bittersweet” and said “it is hard to imagine the United States Senate without Patrick Leahy.”

Leahy was actually the first and remains the only Democrat elected to the Senate from Vermont, despite its famously progressive culture. Liberal Yankee Republicans used to rule the state, a legacy carried on today by Gov. Phil Scott, a popular moderate Republican who is also one of the state’s winningest race car drivers.

Scott has said in the past he has no interest in running for Senate, but some in the GOP hope to change his mind, believing he’s the only Republican in Vermont who could mount a real run.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled confidence that Democrats can hold on to the seat.

“Very few in the history of the United States Senate can match the record of Patrick Leahy. He has been a guardian of Vermont and more rural states in the Senate, and has an unmatched fidelity to the Constitution and rule of law,” Schumer said. “With Patrick’s help, we are confident Democrats will retain the seat.”

Leahy is known on Capitol Hill for his cameos in Batman films — he has appeared in five since 1995’s “Batman Forever” — playing himself or a fictional political leader terrorized by Gotham’s villains.

He will not, however, reprise the role in the upcoming “The Batman” film, telling the Burlington Free Press last year, “I have too many other things going on with COVID, with appropriation bills.”

An amateur photographer, Leahy is also known for documenting meetings with world leaders and historic events on Capitol Hill through the rare perspective of a true insider.

Teaganne Finn is a political reporter for NBC News.

Alex Seitz-Wald is senior digital politics reporter for NBC News.

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