Source: CD Media

Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy announced Monday he won’t seek reelection to a ninth term in Congress, opting to retire following nearly five decades in Washington.

Leahy is the first Senate Democrat to announce his retirement, and his departure will mark a changing of the guard in the Democrat caucus. Leahy’s the most senior senator in the chamber and serves as president pro tempore, and is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“It’s time to put down the gavel,” Leahy said from the Vermont state house in Montpelier, where he appeared with his wife Marcelle. “It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work of our great state. It’s time to come home.”

Leahy’s retirement announcement means that both he and Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., will leave Congress at the same time, ushering in the first time the panel will likely be led by women.

Maine’s Susan Collins is expected to take the helm as the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee at the beginning of the 118th Congress with Washington state’s Patty Murray in line to become the top Democrat.

Leahy’s retirement opens up a Senate seat in the reliably Democrat Green Mountain State, which Joe Biden won by 36 percentage points last year. Leahy was elected to an eighth term in the Senate in 2016 by 28 points, winning 61 percent of the vote in his race against Republican businessman Scott Milne. Leahy’s campaign spent $4.9 million on the race while Milne’s spent just $106,000.