Tag Archives: Patrick Leahy

Watch: Report From Washington on Vermont PBS

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami hosted “Report From Washington” this week with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. Watch the full program below.

Vermont congressional delegation concerned about war request

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s congressional delegation says it has concerns about President Barack Obama’s request to authorize war against Islamic State militants.

Sen. Patrick Leahy says the country has a responsibility to take action but must do so in a way that does not result in an open-ended authorization that becomes legal justification for future action against unknown enemies.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he fears U.S. involvement in “an expanding and never-ending quagmire in that region of the world” and says he supports targeted U.S. military efforts to protect Americans.

Congressman Peter Welch says he cannot support the authorization as it is because he says it leaves in place the Bush-era open-ended authorization.

Obama would limit the authorization to three years, with no restriction on where U.S. forces could pursue the threat.

Congressional members ask for FairPoint assessment

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Members of Congress from Vermont and New Hampshire have called on the Federal Communications Commission to assess the ability of FairPoint Communications to operate emergency communications networks in both states following outages last year.

There was a six-hour outage of Vermont’s 911 system in November and a four-hour outage of Portsmouth, New Hampshire 911 services in December.

With about 1,800 FairPoint workers on strike in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont since October, the lawmakers said in their letter Wednesday that FairPoint’s networks and equipment have failed with increasing frequency and customer complaints have soared.

A FairPoint spokeswoman says the utility is making progress daily to reduce load trouble caused by the strike and “incredibly bad” weather over the past three months.

Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch; and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster sent the letter.

Leahy leads delegation to Cuba

WASHINGTON (AP) — A delegation of congressional Democrats began a three-day visit to Cuba on Saturday to discuss expectations for the normalization of relations between the United States and the island nation.

The delegation’s leader, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said in a statement Saturday that the lawmakers want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of concern to Americans and their representatives in Congress.

Traveling with Leahy were Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and congressmen Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning a trade mission to Cuba to promote the state, spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said Saturday. Details were not announced.

Last month, President Barack Obama announced plans for renewed economic ties and other administration-led initiatives aimed at re-establishing relations with Cuba. Many congressional Republicans have been cool to the effort.

Leahy ‘straw purchase’ gun bill advances out of Judiciary Committee

By Edward Donga | For the Rutland Herald and Times Argus

WASHINGTON — Breaking down largely along party lines, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-7 Thursday to approve a bill, sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy, that would outlaw the so-called straw purchase of firearms.

The committee’s action paves the way for the legislation to come before the full Senate for debate.

A straw purchase involves someone buying a firearm for another individual — such as a convicted felon — who would otherwise be unable to purchase it because he or she cannot pass the required background check.

“The practice of straw purchasing firearms is undertaken for one reason: to get a gun into the hands of someone who is prohibited from having one,” said Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “We know that many of the guns used in criminal activities are acquired through straw purchases.”
Continue reading

Leahy declines Appropriations chairmanship

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Politico.com is reporting that Patrick Leahy has declined the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In a statement issued by email, Leahy said:

“Chairing the Judiciary Committee and maintaining my seniority on the Appropriations Committee will allow me to protect both the Constitution and Vermont.”

The Politico story:

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy is turning down the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a surprise move in a chamber where senior senators are quick to snag the most influential positions on Capitol Hill, aides said Wednesday.

Leahy began telling colleagues Wednesday he would remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the panel that oversees the Justice Department, federal courts and hot-button constitutional issues — rather than take over the Appropriations Committee, which holds the purse strings of federal discretionary spending. The Appropriations Committee spot opened up following the death of long-time Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who had served in the body since 1963.

Leahy to be sworn in as Senate pro tem at 11:30 a.m…

and you can watch the proceedings live on CSPAN2. With the death of 88-year-old Daniel Inouye yesterday, Leahy now ascends to the top of the Senate hierarchy. His appointment as pro tempore puts him third in line for presidency – right behind House Speaker John Boehner – but the title is more symbol than substance. Leahy’s real power will derive from his likely new assignment as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The post is generally the most sought after in the Senate (presidential hopefuls might prefer foreign relations)  and would give Vermont’s senior senator more sway over the way the federal budget is allocated than any other single lawmaker.

What would it mean for Vermont?

The days of federal earmarks are over, so we aren’t in line for our own Bridge to Nowhere. But Leahy would have a heavy hand in devising the formulas used to determine individual states’ shares of appropriations, which could bolster Vermont’s federal health care and transportation revenue.

That’s assuming of course that Leahy assumes the appropriations chairmanship. He reportedly loves his post on the judiciary committe, but most observers say it’s exceedingly unlikely that Leahy would turn down the chance to head the top money committee.

Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus to find out what the experts say Leahy’s new prominence means for Vermont.


Welch thanks Democrats, says he’ll try to bring Vermont way to D.C.

In the first victory speech of the night here at Democratic headquarters in Burlington, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said Washington, D.C., should take its lead from Montpelier.

People here understand that the challenges we face are not ideological problems to be battled about, they are practical problems to be solved,” Welch said on an elevated stage here in a conference room at the Hilton Hotel. “A strong country doesn’t argue about its problems, it solves its problems.”

Welch today defeated Republican challenger Mark Donka, who was outgunned when it came to money, manpower, name recognition and just about every other asset one needs to unseat a federal incumbent. In a five-minute speech, Welch didn’t mention his opponent’s name.

Vermont has led the way and my job is to take the way you do it – practical problem solving, listen to people you disagree with, finding common ground to solve our problems and build a strong American middle class that has always been the hallmark and strength of this country,” Welch said.

Sanders, Leahy outline changes to USPS legislation

BARRE – In a letter sent on Tuesday, Sens. Bernard Sanders and Patrick Leahy outlined changes they would like to see implemented to a bill that would reform the United States Postal Service.
The Vermont senators were joined by 25 other senators, all Democrats, who signed the letter, which proposes that the postal service be prohibited from closing facilities or slowing down first class mail delivery.
“We believe that this financial crisis can be solved in a way that does not substantially slow down the delivery of mail and harm rural America,” wrote the senators in the letter. Continue reading

Derby joins Leahy’s staff

Diane Derby, a former political reporter and press secretary for Sen. James Jeffords, is joining Sen. Patrick Leahy's staff.

Derby will be a field representative based in Montpelier, where she lives, Leahy's office announced Friday.  

Leahy called Derby “a talented professional” and said he has admired “her work, her decency and her sense of humor” for as long as he has known her.

Derby covered Vermont politics in the 1990s. 

Most recently, Derby was a communications manager with the Regulatory Assistance Project, a Montpelier-based nonprofit focused on energy policy. 


I’m on a cow!

Dan Freilich – the primary opponent for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy – put out this Internet ad over the weekend, a parody of the Old Spice ads.

"I'm on a cow!" has now entered the Vermont political vernacular.

– Dan Barlow

“The presumption of power”


I traveled up to the Vermont Public Radio offices in Colchester early this afternoon for the first and only primary debate between U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Dan Freilich.

Leahy was, as always, a polished and patient politician.

Freilich, to my surprise, was also very good.

When little-known candidates with no political experience challenge powerful incumbents, they are usually pretty awful on the campaign trail. They don't know the issues well, they don't know how to boil policies down to sound bytes and they come off looking like amateurs.

Freilich – or Captain Dan, as some are calling him – was none of those.

The southern Vermont doctor and former Navy captain didn't miss a beat transitioning from dairy policy to stimulus funding. He tossed out facts and figures like a pro. And while sometimes it seems that his brain moves faster than his mouth – he can fit an amazing number of words into a few seconds – he was refreshingly aggressive in the face of power.

Of course, baring some sudden national scandal, Leahy will win the Democratic primary on Aug. 24th. And he'll then go on to win the general election in November.

But I can't help but think that if Freilich was not facing a popular incumbent, or perhaps running for a state office such as the House or Senate, he would have a strong chance at winning the race.

(The picture above is one of the many piece of Freilich fan art that has been circulating in political circles. I expect it is not endorsed by the candidate).

– Dan Barlow

Leahy, Powell thank the troops

Sen. Patrick Leahy and former Gen. Colin Powell send a video message to Vermont troops serving overseas. The clip, according to Leahy's staff, was shot Monday in the senator's Washington, D.C. office.

– Dan Barlow

Staff changes in Leahy’s office

Megan DeMers, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, announced today that she is stepping down from her role.

But she is not going far.

DeMers is moving over to Leahy's reelection campaign and will be based out of Burlington for the rest of the year.

Leahy is facing a Democratic primary opponent this year: Wilmington resident Dan Freilich. But the Leahy camp seems to have no reason to be worried; In addition to his years of service and familiarity with voters, Leahy's camp has $3.2 million in the bank for his campaign.

Freilich has $1,698.

– Dan Barlow