Washington Watch: Will Leahy Just Keep Truckin’ On to Become History’s Longest-Serving Senator?

Patrick Leahy made history when he was elected to the US Senate in 1974. For the first time since the constitution was amended to make way for senator elections, Vermont voters elected a Democrat to represent them in the Chamber, and so did Leahy, the 34-year-old prosecutor for Chittenden County.

Leahy was that at the time youngest senator ever elected from Vermont. He took office as one of the two youngest Democrats in the Chamber. The other was the Senator from Delaware Joe Biden.

Now Biden is the 78-year-old President of the United States, and Leahy is the 81-year-old pro tempore president of the Senate, making him the third person in the current successor to the presidency.

Leahy will soon decide whether to seek a ninth term in the Senate. Politico says he is probably to try. If Vermont voters re-elected Leahy in 2022, the chamber’s most ardent Grateful Dead fan would be well on its way to becoming its longest-serving member.

The tenure record belongs to former West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, who served 51 years, five months and 26 days.

Leahy has served for 46 years and could top Byrd’s mark in a ninth term.

Like Byrd, Leahy chairs one of the Senate’s most powerful committees, Appropriations. Leahy is also the senior member of the Justice and Agriculture Committees. He is a passionate advocate of labor rights (97 percent Lifetime evaluation of the AFL-CIO), environmental protection and climate justice (League of Conservation Voters lifetime evaluation: 94 percent) and a woman’s right to vote (current rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America: 100 percent). Leahy voted against a war against Iraq, twice supported the indictment against Donald Trump, and once hosted the dead Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart at lunch in the Senate dining room. (The then Senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, said to Garcia, “I’m the oldest member of the United States Senate, do you hear me boy?” Garcia, after meeting Thurmond, “You know, I’ve never had had such an experience, even if I dropped acid earlier. ”)

Pollsters and experts see Leahy as a likely winner in 2022 – Vermonters have held senior senators in office in the past.

Leahy’s predecessor, Republican George Aikenwas the dean of the Senate when he retired in 1975. Aiken was born in 1892 under the presidency of Benjamin Harrison and served in the Chamber for 34 years. He arrived during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second term and left when Gerald Ford occupied the Oval Office.

Leahy’s junior colleague, independent Bernie Sanders, is 79 years old and was easily re-elected for a third term in 2018. The senators are friendly colleagues (Leahy supported Sanders for the President in 2020), although they ran against each other once. In the 1974 election, when Leahy was first sent to the Senate, Sanders took third place as a candidate for the independent left-wing Liberty Union Party.

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