Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), the 81-year-old career politician best known for his failed attempt to confront then-vice president Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2022.
The defining moment of Leahy's career came in June 2004 following the U.S. Senate class photo. Leahy, reportedly jealous that Cheney was mingling with a group of Republican lawmakers, approached the vice president and attempted to bully Cheney into acknowledging the Democrats in the room. The confrontation devolved into a shouting match over the Iraq war and other issues until Cheney conclusively ended the exchange. "Go fuck yourself," he told the senator with authority.
Cheney, along with running mate George W. Bush, was decisively reelected months later. So was Leahy, who has represented the extreme left-wing state for eight consecutive terms beginning in 1975. Cheney in 2005 swore him in to begin his sixth term. Leahy, one of the oldest members of Congress in history, is only slightly older than President Joe Biden, who on Nov. 20 will turn 79. He is five days younger than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
"It is time to put down the gavel—it is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter," Leahy said at a news conference in his home state, which Biden won in 2020 with 65 percent of the vote. The open seat could instigate a showdown between the Democratic Party establishment and Vermont's other senator, radical socialist Bernie Sanders. Given the state of the economy and Biden's disastrous approval rating, Democrats could certainly find a way to lose that seat to a generic Republican.
In addition to being humiliated by Cheney on the Senate floor, Leahy will be remembered as a comic book nerd who exploited his political power to secure numerous cameos in Batman films, including Batman & Robin starring George Clooney and Alicia Silverstone. It is widely regarded as one of the worst comic book movies of all time.
Leahy served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he played a major role in the controversial Anita Hill hearings regarding the 1991 Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. The white male lawmakers who took part in those hearings have been widely criticized for their racially inflammatory conduct. For his part, Leahy asked a series of questions about pornography. Thomas continues to serve honorably as a Supreme Court justice.
Decades later, Leahy led the Democratic opposition to Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, which was nearly derailed by unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault. Some of the allegations were promoted by former media darling and onetime Democratic presidential frontrunner Michael Avenatti, who is serving prison time after he was convicted of fraud and other felony charges. Kavanaugh continues to like beer and is enjoying his role as a member of the nation's highest court.
Cheney, meanwhile, has absolutely no regrets about urging Leahy to perform a lewd act upon himself. "You'd be surprised how many people liked that," the legendary statesman said in 2010. "It's sort of the best thing I ever did."