Leahy says shutdown fight encouraged him to stay in office

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., addresses reporters in his Burlington office on Thursday morning. Photo by Alicia Freese/VTDigger
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., addresses reporters in his Burlington office on Thursday morning. Photo by Alicia Freese/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — After casting his vote to end the government shutdown Wednesday evening, Sen. Patrick Leahy promptly boarded a plane, arriving in Vermont after midnight. At a news conference in his Burlington office the following morning, Leahy made clear his relief at having left Washington behind.

But the shutdown debacle, prompted when House Republicans attempted to use the budget bill to delay implementation of Obamacare, has, if anything, renewed Leahy’s conviction that he belongs in Congress — and that the institution depends on lawmakers like him.

Throughout the standoff, the nation’s senior-most senator made several speeches comparing Tea Party Republicans to children bickering in a sandbox, and Thursday he again bemoaned the deficit of “grown-ups” in Washington.

Asked if he would seek re-election to a dysfunctional Congress in 2016, Leahy responded, “At the end of yesterday, I was thinking, I probably should, just to try to have some more grown-ups down there.”

Don’t expect an announcement one way or the other until 2015, Leahy said, but, “if I had to make the decision today, of course I’d run again.”

“And,” he added, “I’d win.

“I don’t mean that to be arrogant,” Leahy said. “I think I’d win based on what I’ve accomplished for Vermont. A billion dollars worth of jobs I’ve brought into the state, the environmental work I’ve done in the state, social programs I’ve brought to the state.”

The 11th-hour shutdown deal forced Leahy to miss a state Chamber of Commerce event honoring him as “citizen of the year” for bringing jobs to Vermont, http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/09/05/vermont-chamber-names-leahy-citizen-of-the-year/ and Leahy mentioned several times how disappointed he was not to have attended it. “If there’s one thing I did not want to miss this year it was that dinner with all my friends.”

Leahy, elected to the Senate in 1974, reminisced about a more amicable Congress when senators hashed out differences during the evening hours or over breakfast. He said he’s been calling a number of retired Democratic and Republican leaders, who corroborated his opinion that congressional operations have indeed changed.

“They are just stunned,” Leahy said, but he insists that the shutdown hasn’t shaken his faith in the institution.

“Yeah, it’s harder. Am I less proud of the institution? No.”

Leahy said he’s hopeful Congress will be able to pass a Farm Bill — he sits on the conference committee that will attempt to reconcile significant differences between the House and Senate versions — before the end of the year.

And he still thinks “we can go somewhere with the immigration reform,” which passed the Senate, but has sat dormant in the House.

Even amidst the shutdown, Leahy said he’s been holding “quiet meetings” with House Republicans and Democrats on both topics.

But asked if the country could end up back in the same scenario if Democrats and Republicans fail to meet the new deadlines — punted several months down the road — for passing a budget and raising the debt ceiling, Leahy offered no reassurances.

“We could be,” he said.

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  • Henault Judith

    Sounds good but what about his dogged support of the EB-5 program and it’s non jobs.

  • Sam Lincoln

    As the debt is growing astronomically, through pork barrel spending, poor tax policies and partisan politics Senator Leahy has reached celebrity status. I’m appalled that his priority is being recognized and having a nice meal rather than serving as our representative in Washington and figuring out how not to crush us all with government debt. If these are your priorities, you’ve been there too long and lost any perspective of what folks in your home state see as qualities in an elected official. It’s time to move on sir. You’ve lugged home a lot of bacon on those return trips to Vermont, which in the past we’ve apparently been grateful for by all the accolades you’ve received. I hope you’re able to to enjoy a nice evening out with friends another time while the rest of us wonder about our business’s, family’s and the country’s future with the current gang in the wheelhouse down in Washington. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but maybe your campaign staff could work “humble servant” into some of your speeches for the next election rather than “Look at me, I’ve accomplished a lot for you.”

    • David Dempsey

      Here Here

  • Fred Woogmaster

    I was hoping that our Senior Senator would declare victory and withdraw.

    He has served his time well; brought millions of dollars worth of military (and police) equipment into Vermont to keep us safe.

    Despite those accomplishments and the power of seniority, I think it to be time for Mr. Leahy to take a few well deserved victory laps and enjoy retirement.

    Our country needs NEW leadership. We need new leaders who will act to counter the tyranny of corporate America, the unparallelled influence of our military/industrial complex, and the associated widening wealth gap between the haves and the havenots.

    Senator Leahy has done well; he is no doubt a ‘grown up’ but he has grown up with the “old guard”. We need something different.

  • Craig Powers

    Term limits would be nice.

    • David Dempsey


  • Ann Raynolds

    Yikes! I have to say something here after all these brickbats being thrown.
    To Senator Leahy: Please DO run and stay in office and head up the Judiciary Committee where you have made huge positive contributions. We need our Senior Senator in the Senate; his voice carries weight.
    I might remind some people about the cost of the Bush Wars which Leahy cast with the minority voice voting against Bush; that those Bush Wars and Bush years are what have made the debt skyrocket. Clinton turned over the Presidency to Bush with no debt. People’s memories need refreshing!

    • Your right Ann…moreover this latest fiasco in D.C. was caused by a minority within a minority whose main purpose in life is to oppose anything the Obama administration does or proposes.
      Concerning the ACA, they have yet to come with any positive health care reform of their own, other than to spout anti- government cliches, even as they enjoy the best government publicly funded health care available.

  • Will Adams

    “I don’t mean that to be arrogant,” Leahy said. Really? If Leahy doesn’t mean to be arrogant he should do himself a favor and not say things that are unmistakably arrogant, such as this and his reference to DC needing “more grown-ups.” Please. Were he the “grown-up” he purports to be, he wouldn’t need to resort to self-serving statements like these. Leahy is one of the most insufferable, self-congratulatory and self-satisfied politicians in Washington, and that’s saying something. The only thing sincere about Leahy is his deep desire for recognition and fawning adoration.

  • Ralph Colin

    If some of you are concerned about the Senator’s announcement, just think about how Shummy must feel. That pain in his solar plexus ain’t just gas!