Born in Montpelier, raised across the street from the Statehouse, and educated in Montpelier and Colchester, Patrick Leahy has spent most of his adult life working for Vermonters. After graduating from Saint Michael's College in 1961, he earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1964. He then returned to Vermont to the private practice of law and then, for the next eight years, served as the State's Attorney in Chittenden County, where he gained a national reputation for his law enforcement work.
In 1974, Pat Leahy became the first Democrat who Vermonters ever elected to the United States Senate, where he now ranks second in seniority. He serves as Chairman of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. He also is a senior member of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee and on the Appropriations Committee, where he is a member of the Defense, Interior, Homeland Security, Transportation-HUD, and Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittees.
As a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, Senator Leahy played instrumental roles in creating the Farmland Protection Program and the Milk Income Loss Compensation (MILC) program, and in extending the Conservation Reserve Program. He has been a long-time supporter of the organic movement and is often called the "father of organics." He helped Vermont's and the nation's organic industry grow from near obscurity when he wrote and passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990. The Leahy charter for organic agriculture has helped it grow into an $11 billion-a-year sector of the American economy.
Senator Leahy has championed effective child nutrition programs, gaining bipartisan support for addressing the nation's obesity crisis and leading efforts to implement hands-on nutrition education programs in our schools. He has also reached across the aisle to coauthor legislation that would enable the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently control the sale of junk food and soft drinks in schools that participate in the federal School Lunch Program.
Pat Leahy prides himself on his Green Mountain heritage, and he is one of the Senate's leading advocates of good environmental stewardship. He opposed Republican efforts to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, as well as efforts to drill in the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge in Vermont. He has worked to enlarge the Green Mountain National Forest, which has expanded by more than 100,000 acres as a result of his efforts, he led efforts to tackle the health dangers of mercury pollution. Over the years, Pat Leahy has fought hard for Lake Champlain and has secured vital federal funding to clean up this great lake.
Pat Leahy has always sought to infuse Vermont values into U.S. foreign policy and has been a champion of international human rights. He has long been a leader in the U.S. and international campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines and, in 1992, he wrote the world's first law to ban the export of these deplorable weapons. As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, he has led congressional efforts to create a special fund in the foreign aid budget to help landmine victims, known as the Leahy War Victims Fund. This fund now provides up to $12 million a year to humanitarian anti-landmine efforts.
As the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Pat Leahy has authored, advocated and enacted a wide range of anti-crime and anti-drug initiatives. He wrote the charter for the current federal grant program for the nation's first-responders, and Pat Leahy's all-state minimum for the program's formula has brought millions of federal equipment dollars to Vermont 's police, fire, and EMS units. In his Judiciary Committee role, Pat Leahy also gives Vermonters a leading voice in confirming nominations to the federal courts. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution gave the Senate an important role to play in ensuring that the federal bench would not simply be an arm of the Executive Branch, and he consistently fights to keep the courts from becoming an extension of either political party. He points out that our independent federal judiciary is the envy of the world, and he fights to keep it independent.
A longtime leader in efforts to reform the death penalty, Senator Leahy is the chief sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to reform the use of the death penalty by providing defendants with access to competent legal counsel and by allowing post-conviction DNA testing to reduce the possibility of executing innocent individuals.
Pat Leahy is the co-chair of the Senate's 97-member National Guard Caucus. He has fought to improve access to health care, education and retirement benefits for Vermont's citizen-soldiers and to make sure that they are treated equally with the active forces. In recognition of his service to our men and women in uniform, Senator Leahy has been awarded the George Washington Freedom Award from the Adjutants General of the U.S. Association, the Eagle Award from the Enlisted National Guard Association, and the Harry S. Truman Award for "sustained contributions of exceptional and far-reaching magnitude to the defense and security of the United States in a manner worthy of recognition at the national level."
Sometimes referred to as the "cyber senator," Leahy was the second senator to post an official homepage on the internet. Since its creation in 1995, the Leahy Senate website has often won awards as one of the Senate's best. His interest in technology also led him to co-found the Congressional Internet Caucus, which he co-chairs, and to spearhead efforts to expand broadband access to Vermont. Mindful of new hazards presented by the internet, he is also a leader in the effort to protect intellectual property rights and privacy.
Senator Leahy lives on a tree farm in Middlesex with Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy, his wife since 1962. Marcelle is a Registered Nurse who has worked in Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Most recently, she worked as a staff nurse in the Medical-Surgical Unit of Arlington Hospital in northern Virginia. She is now a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Marcelle Leahy is also the honorary chair of the Vermont National Guard Family Support Program, which helps ensure that the families of the state's citizen-soldiers receive the assistance and care they need during lengthy deployments of their loved ones. The Leahys have two sons, a daughter, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and five grandchildren.