Issues

Patrick Leahy Delivers for Vermonters

Senator Leahy has Vermont's back in Washington. Day after day, he uses his legislative experience to make sure Vermont's voice is heard and that Vermonter's views count. When Tropical Storm Irene struck Vermont, Senator Leahy made sure federal agencies worked closely with Vermonters. Over $500 million was provided to help Vermonters rebuild and restore their lives. Senator Leahy's leadership on the Judiciary, Appropriations, and Agriculture committees means Vermont is at the legislative table in Washington as decisions are made. He has successfully authored small state minimums in programs that are important to Vermont. That has translated into $50 million in grants to assist victims of domestic abuse, $25 million for opioid treatment and enforcement, and $100 million for Vermont's first responders. Building "floors" into legislation ensures that small states like ours get fair share in federal assistance.

Promoting Vermont Brand and Products

Patrick Leahy brings Vermont ideas to the national stage. He is the father of the national organic standards and labeling program, which he forged with Vermont's farmers at a time when Vermont organic agriculture was a fledgling sector. Since Leahy's organic farm bill was enacted, organic agriculture has blossomed into a $30 billion market. Efforts in Vermont to link local farmers with school cafeterias led Leahy to author a national farm to school grant program. Vermont's Marriage Equality law helped pave the way to federal civil rights for members of the LGBTQ community, and he has fought to ensure they have the equal rights they deserve. Lack of bulletproof vests for local and state police officers during a shooting rampage in Vermont led to the Leahy-authored national Bulletproof Vest grant program. Vermont GMO labelling leadership has prompted Senator Leahy to lead efforts for national labelling for GMOs. Vermonters, and Patrick Leahy, know that Vermont's unique agriculture economy, dominated by small dairy farms, is crucial to preserving our working rural communities. He has authored no fewer than four programs to support Vermont dairy farmers when milk prices decline. He constantly promotes Vermont products and tourism, including at the annual Taste of Vermont he initiated on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sowing Seeds of Economic Growth and Job Creation

Vermont faces economic challenges and Senator Leahy is working to take those head on. This includes helping the Windham County region move past the impacts of Vermont Yankee's retirement toward a diversified economy that includes a strong green building sector. In Northern Vermont he is leading by bringing economic development funding to the Northeast Kingdom through a special federally designated Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone (REAP) that prioritizes applications for federal funding. Partnering with Vermont communities in funding grassroots economic development projects and completing an award-winning program that has renewed and conserved several of Vermont's historic downtowns. He directs seed funding and capital for the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies incubator (VCET) to help entrepreneurs build their companies and employ Vermonters. He organizes his annual Vermont Women's Economic Opportunity Conference where more than 3,000 Vermont women have gathered to learn and hone skills for business success. He makes sure that Vermont firms have an equal playing field for federal contracts.

First Responders and Law Enforcement

Senator Leahy often points to his service as Chittenden County State's Attorney as his guidepost for his legislative initiatives on the Judiciary Committee. He champions the needs of crime and domestic violence victims. He co-authored the Bulletproof Vest grant program which has helped purchase 4,400 life-saving vests for local law enforcement officers throughout Vermont since 1999. He supports state and local law enforcement through Community Oriented Policing Services and Homeland Security grants, the latter of which Senator Leahy established a small-state minimum in the 2001 Patriot Act that resulted in over $100 million for Vermont Firefighters, Police, and Public Safety officers. He knows the criminal sentencing system needs repair to restore fairness and reduce overcrowding in prisons. He joined a group of bipartisan senators on sentencing reform legislation that will reverse some of the misguided mandatory minimums passed during the "War on Drugs" in the 1980s and 1990s. He authored the Dale Long Act that extended federal death benefits to volunteer paramedics after Vermonter Dale Long died in Bennington in the line of duty and his family was not eligible for benefits. He has been a leader in digital forensic training and established the Vermont Digital Forensics Center at Champlain College where the next generation of cyber investigators are being trained.

Global Leadership

Vermonters play an active role in bringing our values to global world affairs. The Green Mountain State has the highest per capita percentage of Peace Corps volunteers. Hundreds of Vermonters work for non-governmental organizations around the world. Many others do volunteer work through relief organizations or their churches. Senator Leahy shares the global perspective in the Vermont spirit and has chalked up numerous legislative accomplishments on global issues. He worked for years publicly and behind the scenes on the normalization of relations with Cuba. He has long been the leading U.S. official in the international campaign to ban landmines and was an early supporter of efforts to ban cluster munitions. He has been a leading advocate for human rights, establishing what is now referred to as the "Leahy Law," which prohibits U.S. military assistance to military units that have been accused of gross human rights violations. He wrote the legislation that established the Leahy War Victims Fund, which serves as a method to assist civilians whose lives or property were damaged or lost during conflict. He provided funding to clean up sites in Vietnam contaminated with Agent Orange, and for related medical and disability programs for victims.

Champion for the Environment

Senator Leahy is a steward of the environment. His advocacy has lead to millions of dollars for clean water, including more than $100 million for the Lake Champlain Basin, and preserved hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and farm land. But Vermont's vigilance on the environment goes for naught without curbing national threats. Leahy is a leader in addressing global climate change, including leading the fight on regulations to curb mercury emissions from coal fired power plants in the Midwest. He was a pioneer in helping Vermont identify and fight acid rain. He is a staunch opponent of the Keystone pipeline. He has used his position on the Appropriations Committee to direct funding to address the decline of oceans, deforestation in the Amazon, and the alarming loss of species around the globe.

Defender of Civil Rights

Senator Leahy is a stalwart leader for equal rights under the law regardless of gender, race, or economic status. Vermont has been at the forefront of civil unions and gay marriage and Senator Leahy has worked to extend those protections in federal law. He managed the Respect for Marriage Act on the Senate Floor and worked to pass implementing legislation after the Supreme Court declared same sex marriage constitutional. He reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included expansion in coverage to LGBT and Native American communities. He is leading efforts to reverse Supreme Court decisions that have eviscerated the Voting Rights Act to ensure that all Americans have easy access to voting regardless of their race or economic status.

Protector of Privacy and Good Government

Senator Leahy has long championed Americans' privacy rights. He has advanced the public's right to know what their government is doing. He was inducted into the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) "Hall of Fame" for his leadership to promote government transparency, writing, and passing FOIA strengthening laws and defending the law from repeated efforts to weaken it. The bipartisan USA Freedom Act that he authored ended the NSA bulk monitoring program. His Electronic Consumer Privacy Act (ECPA) reauthorization would require law enforcement agencies to need warrants to access Americans' email. Senator Leahy stood firm to insist on adding sunset provisions to the Patriot Act, which forced Congress to review its provisions and gave Congress the ability to change or delete its most sweeping provisions.

Champion for Vermont's Farmers, Vermont Branding, and Vermont Value-Added Agriculture

As a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senator Leahy is a strong voice for Vermont farmers, Vermont agriculture, and value-added products in the food and beverage industry. He brings Vermont ideas to the national stage, like the common sense of pairing of local farms and schools in Vermont. This program yields benefits from the classroom to the cafeteria and spurred his efforts on the National Farm to School grant program. He is known as the "father" of the national organic labeling and standards program, which he forged with Vermont farmers at a time when organic agriculture was only a fledgling market. The Leahy organic farm bill helped organic farming blossom into a $30 billion industry. He worked to protect small Vermont dairy farmers through the safety net Milk Income Loss Contract program and the Margin Protection Program. Patrick Leahy knows the importance of family farms, and no one is better placed or more effective in fighting for Vermont farmers.

GMO Labeling

When Vermont passed a first in the nation GMO labeling bill that ensures consumers have the right to know what is in their food, Senator Leahy protected their work and progress from threats in Congress.  What critics have appropriately called the "Deny American's Right to Know" (DARK) Act was crafted by big food companies and would have preempted and tossed out Vermont’s common sense legislation, denying Vermonters the right to know what is in their food.  Senator Leahy was among the first to strongly oppose the DARK Act and led the charge in the Senate to defeat a hasty and short sighted effort to block Vermont’s historic GMO labeling law.  In protecting Vermont’s GMO law, Senator Leahy continued his legacy of consumer protection first started when he authored the national organic labeling standards.

Citizens United

Senator Leahy has called the Citizens United decision a strike at the core of our democracy with few other decisions having such a negative impact on our political process.  A campaign finance reform advocate before the Citizen’s United decision, Leahy has always believed the power of government should rest in the hands of the people.  As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he held hearings on the devastating Citizens United decision.  He led the committee debate for a Constitutional Amendment to rein in the influence of billionaires and make clear that corporations are not people, and he worked to protect the voting rights of individual Americans. Leahy authored the Voting Rights Advancement Act and champions the fundamental right to vote. Called a “voting rights bill for Americans,” Leahy’s legislation would restore and advance voting rights for ALL Americans following another devastating Supreme Court Decision in Shelby County v. Holder.