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Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate's longest-serving member, to retire

Washington — Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the longest-serving active member of the Senate, will not seek reelection in 2022, he announced Monday.

Leahy, 81, was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and will retire after serving more than 46 years. He is currently the president pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in the presidential line of succession, and heads the Appropriations Committee, the third panel Leahy has chaired across his career in the upper chamber.

"While I will continue to serve Vermont, Marcelle and I have reached the conclusion that it's time to put down the gavel. 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 announced during a press conference at the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

With his decision not to seek a ninth term, Leahy joins five other senators — all Republicans — who have announced their retirement. 

Election 2022 Vermont Senate
Senator Patrick Leahy speaks during a news conference at the Vermont State House to announce he will not seek reelection on Monday, November 15, 2021, in Montpelier, Vermont. Mary Schwalm / AP

Leahy revealed his decision to leave the Senate from the same place where he announced his run for higher office in 1974, and recalled launching his career at a time when the nation was facing a "constitutional crisis" following the Watergate scandal, the resignation of former President Richard Nixon and war in Vietnam.

"I'm proud to be Vermont's longest-serving senator because I know my time in the Senate has made a difference for Vermonters," he said. "I know I've been there for my state when I was needed most. I know I've taken our best ideas and helped them grow. I brought Vermont's voice to the United States Senate and Vermont's values around the world."

Leahy said he is confident the nation will "remain resilient and the next generation will ensure our democracy remains whole."

With Leahy's decision not to run again, Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with Democrats, will become Vermont's senior senator. Leahy's retirement sets up another fight for Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections as they seek to maintain their control of the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in Democrats are "confident" they will retain Leahy's 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 in a statement. "We agreed and worked on so many important issues together, but sadly, one thing we could never agree on: whether New York or Vermont has the best maple syrup."

As president pro tempore, Leahy presided over former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial earlier this year and was briefly hospitalized after the start of the proceedings in late January.

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