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Better late than never, but also better on time than late

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., center, speaks with committee members Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 22, 2013, during the committee’s hearing on immigration reform. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Finally:

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the chamber’s longest-serving member, announced on Monday that he would retire at the end of his term rather than seek re-election in 2022, closing out nearly half a century of service in Congress.

Mr. Leahy, 81, who was elected in 1974 at age 34 after working as a prosecutor, announced his decision at a news conference at the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

“It is time to put down the gavel — it is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter,” Mr. Leahy said, speaking in the same room where he announced his first campaign for the Senate. “It is time to come home.”

Mr. Leahy’s departure is unlikely to alter the partisan makeup of the Senate given that Vermont is a solidly Democratic state; President Biden won with 65 percent of the vote there last year. But it will rob the chamber of an institutional figure who has come to embody its traditions and the comity that defined it in a bygone era.

That last paragraph is an excellent illustration of why his retirement came at least two terms late. He didn’t maintain the use of blue slips under Obama knowing there was no chance the next Republican exacta would reciprocate. He significantly expanded the use of blue slips under Obama knowing there was no chance the next Republican exacta would reciprocate, leaving many circuit court seats for Trump and McConnell to gleefully fill. His late performance as chair of the Judiciary Committee was one of the clearest examples of how even fairly liberal elite Senate Dems either had no idea what they were dealing with or didn’t care because the Precious Arbitrary Norms of the Senate were more important than any other consideration.

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