U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy met with reporters from Vermont and the region in his Burlington office Friday morning to talk about his Congressional priorities.
Vermont’s senior Senator, a Democrat and the Pro Tem of the U.S. Senate, began his conversation noting that Congress did not have a good year last year, but he believes 2014 will be better. Leahy listed a litany of legislation on which he expects action as Congress reconvenes. "We’re going to take up next week in the Senate important legislation to restore unemployment insurance. We’re going to consider legislation early this year to raise the minimum wage. We may have to overcome a Republican filibuster on it, but we should try. The Farm Bill is a matter of concern. I think we are at a point where this weekend we’ll be able to complete the work on the Farm Bill. In the Judiciary Committee we passed one of the most significant immigration bills ever. Now at first, the Speaker said that they would not take it up. I am more optimistic today than I was even a week ago. And I think if we can get this it will be one the most significant things this Congress will do.”
Patrick Leahy is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he plans to conduct comprehensive hearings on the NSA. "For the first time ever, all five members of the White House Board of Review of the National Security Agency are going to appear in public and they’ll be before my committee, in about a week and a half. I think now with all the revelations of a National Security Agency that is collecting far more information they can possibly analyze, far more information than they need, but also information that impinges on the rights and privacy of every single person, and this will be I think the most complete public hearing and I hope that as result of it we will finally see some changes.”
Leahy expressed disappointment in the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, but wants to see it succeed. "I just want to see it run better. I think it was unfortunate, the rollout. But it is getting better. I like the idea that eventually this country will have everybody covered by insurance, like every single one of our major allies around the world.”
Leahy added he is open to assessing what could be revised to make Obamacare better. "But in doing that, it should be a case where we have not an all or nothing, as has been in the past. You know the Republicans in the House, what, thirty-five, forty times they voted to totally repeal it. Now what we’re hearing from many is we made our point, the all or nothing, now let’s sit down and make it better. If people have better ideas, I'm not in the committee that does it, but if they have better ideas, I'm open to them.”
Leahy quipped that he enjoys holding the senior position on the Senate agriculture, appropriations and judiciary committees because he says they appear to be the three committees accomplishing the most work.