McConnell Honors Retiring Senator Pat Leahy
‘Pat’s legendary service to the people of Vermont has been more than a vote tally. Over eight terms, he’s made a point of becoming not just a familiar name, but a friendly face and a committed servant to his neighbors… I know I speak for so many colleagues, past and present, in saying the Senate will miss our distinguished president pro tempore.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT):
“We’ve again reached the period, every two years, when the Senate begins our process of honoring and bidding farewell to our distinguished colleagues who are soon leaving our ranks.
“Seeing friends off is hardly a task to look forward to, but it’s made more tolerable when I get to boast about and embarrass our talented colleagues one last time before they head for the exits.
“I’ll begin today with one of only two current Senators who were around when I arrived as a freshman in 1985.
“By then, of course, Pat Leahy had already made history. When Pat was first elected in 1974, he was the first non-Republican to represent Vermont in the Senate since 1856. And now, after eight terms, he’ll depart having made history all over again as his state’s longest-serving Senator by a comfortable margin.
“Of course, it’s the dash in between the dates that matters most, and to say that Pat Leahy has made the most of his time in Washington would be an understatement.
“Pat first developed his habit for lifelong learning growing up around the printing press of his family’s newspaper in Montpelier.
“But I suspect our friend never hit the books as hard as he did after he found out that the girl for whom he had fallen head over heels, Marcelle, spoke not English, but French, at home. The way Pat tells it, he ‘wanted to know what [Marcelle’s] parents were saying about [him].’ So the studies began!
“Here in the Senate, that same energy and curiosity led Pat to collect enough policy passions for an entire Congressional delegation – from dairy farming to privacy to landmine mitigation.
“Pat and I got to work closely together during our long tenures switching off as Chairmen and Ranking Members of the State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee on Appropriations.
“As often as the majority changed hands during our time at SFOPS, Pat and I made a point of working as partners. He always knew the right time to break up tense negotiations with a stemwinder of an old Irish joke.
“We rolled up our sleeves and bonded over our shared commitment to extending American influence and promoting our interests using soft power, everywhere from East Asia to the former Soviet Union.
“And like good appropriators, we also bonded over a firm mutual conviction that our true opponent was never each other — it was the House!
“Our time leading SFOPS together saw a major landmine removal effort deservedly come to bear the name of its champion — the Leahy War Victims Fund.
“And Pat lent equal support to one of my passion projects, our work on behalf of the pro-democracy movement in Burma.
“All of this work was accompanied by great humor.
“One time, after an election that had turned out well for Republicans, Pat showed up to our next hearing having found a unique way to show grace in defeat.
“He showed up with a yard sign from the campaign of some local candidate where he lived that read, ‘McConnell for Chairman’ — and remarked that apparently the voters of his neighborhood had gotten their wish!
“Even just measuring by total votes cast, Pat’s colossal Senate legacy puts the name ‘Leahy’ right up there with fellow titans like Kennedy, Stevens, and Inouye.
“But Pat’s legendary service to the people of Vermont has been more than a vote tally. Over eight terms, he’s made a point of becoming not just a familiar name, but a friendly face and a committed servant to his neighbors.
“And it certainly didn’t come easy. The way I’ve heard the story, Pat’s first Senate victory came after he wisely dispatched his darling French-speaking emissary, Marcelle, in the Francophone enclaves of Vermont’s ‘northeast kingdom.’
“Of course, we know Marcelle is much more than a natural campaigner — she’s an accomplished nurse and a treasured member of the Senate family in her own right.
“I know I speak for so many colleagues, past and present, in saying the Senate will miss our distinguished president pro tempore.
“But we know that Pat and Marcelle have more than earned some extra free time to spend in their beautiful home state, with their kids – Kevin, Alicia, and Mark – and their five grandkids, and with the many neighbors who are grateful for a lifetime of fine service.”
Related Issues: Tributes, Senate Democrats