Sen. Patrick J. Leahy cast his 16,000th vote Wednesday, joining an exclusive club in the Senate. That landmark has been crossed by only three other senators in history.
The Vermont Democrat’s first vote came in 1975 on a resolution to establish the Church Committee to investigate intelligence gathering in the post-Watergate era. His 16,000th vote was in favor of a tax treaty with Japan aimed at avoiding double taxation and evasion of income taxes.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that all lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, are reminded every day why Vermonters made Leahy the youngest senator ever from the Green Mountain State.
“They rehired him over and over. He must be a hard act to follow too, because he still, believe this or not, he’s still technically the only Democrat Vermont has ever sent to the Senate,” said McConnell.
The other senator from Vermont is Bernie Sanders, an independent.
The Senate rose to applaud Leahy’s record-breaking vote. The standing ovation was followed by comments from McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
“Just a little perspective, imagine taking 16,000 pennies and stacking them one on top of the other, they’d surpass the height of the Washington Monument. They’d more than double the height of the Capitol Dome,” said Schumer. “It’s a reminder that a multitude of smaller actions and the accumulation of smaller accomplishments over a lifetime of quiet dedication can amount to a great monument of achievement.”
After accolades and congratulations, Leahy had some words of his own.
Leahy told the chamber he is proud to serve alongside his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and that after hearing the news of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passing this morning, he remembered something about his own career.
“My first Supreme Court justice, the first I voted on, was John Paul Stevens,” he told the chamber.
Leahy has previously said that two war votes stood out as some of the proudest of his career. He voted against the Iraq War and cast a vote as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to end the Vietnam War.
Following Wednesday’s vote, Leahy entertained reporters with a rollicking retelling of some of his career and personal highlights, including a recent call from his only daughter.
“Our daughter calls — I don’t know if you know Alicia, but she calls this morning,” he said.
“‘Gee, Daddy. 1,600 votes!’” he continued, doing an impression of her.
“I said, ‘You dumbass, it’s 16,000!’” Leahy told reporters to a burst of laughter.
Leahy joins just three other senators in the 16,000 club: Democrat Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia cast 18,689 votes, Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina cast 16,348 votes and Democrat Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii cast 16,300 votes.
Leahy was first elected in 1974 and is serving his eighth term in the Senate.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.