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Sen. Patrick Leahy to return to the Senate floor this week after two surgeries

A photo of Sen. Patrick Leahy sitting in a committee room with his nameplate in front of him.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, Associated Press
Pool, The Washington Post
Sen. Patrick Leahy plans to return to the Senate this week — in a Batman-decorated wheelchair — after undergoing two surgeries and rehabilitation for a broken hip.

Sen. Patrick Leahy says he plans to be on the Senate floor this week — and potentially cast a decisive vote — for legislation allocating almost half a trillion dollars for climate change and health care initiatives.

Leahy came home last Friday after spending a month in the hospital following two surgeries to repair a broken hip.

Senate rules require senators to be on the floor for roll call votes. Leahy says his vote will be needed, because all 50 Republican senators plan to vote against the bill.

Vermont Public’s Bob Kinzel spoke with Sen. Patrick Leahy in the senator's first interview since the surgeries. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Bob Kinzel: Senator, I know a lot of people would like to know, how are you doing?

Sen. Patrick Leahy: Well, I'm doing fine. It’s just — the damage to my hip was pretty substantial. And they had to operate twice, about a week and a half apart. And that physically, but probably psychologically, there's a setback. And it's learning to walk again and do all that, which I will be able to, and am doing to some extent now.

But I was able to, from the hospital bed, work on the appropriations bills. But I miss being in the Senate. I miss the give and take. And somehow as nice as people are, a month at a hospital really is no fun.

"[B]ecause the first few days we’re back, because they're going to have so many votes, I could probably walk in with a walker, but we’ll use a wheelchair... I have a black wheelchair. Do you know what's on each side panel? A bat signal. You might as well have a sense of humor about all this."
Sen. Patrick Leahy

What do you think has been the hardest part of this recovery for you?

I think the fact that I, you know, I assumed, “Ok, get a hip replacement and I'll be out of here in a hurry.” I know so many people who have had them. I didn't realize how bad the damage was. And that it would take time. And there are some problems they had to follow up on, blood and everything else. And I just think — I've never been this inactive in my life, and to be there and not be able to move, not be able to do things. It really — it really bothered me.

What do the doctors tell you is your prognosis for recovery? Are you expecting a full recovery? I know you like to go for long walks in the woods, it's a very high priority for you. Is that activity on the horizon?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, there are a lot of things that I have to — I want to do. That we're used to doing. The walks are great. Our home in Middlesex, you have a wonderful place to go snowshoeing. It’s a great place. I love walking across the fields at sunset, because you got the great view of Camel’s Hump and everything else.

I didn't really — not that I paid that much attention — I didn’t realize on elective hip replacements, that’s one thing. It’s when you have a hip replacement because of trauma, that's where it gets complicated.

More from Vermont Public: Sen. Leahy's fall is an all too common occurrence among older Vermonters

As you mentioned on Friday, you were able to come home after more than a month in the hospital. What did it mean to you to finally be at home after this ordeal?

Well, I use a walker going around the house. And just looking at things I've looked at forever, pictures of our children, our grandchildren, our parents, things that kids have drawn — it looks like a museum, a family museum here. And just walking around and seeing that, things I've seen for years, is like, “Oh, boy, it's real, I’m back.” And actually, I think the fact that your spirits are so much better, you know you’re going to make it.

We've been teasing, because the first few days we’re back, because they're going to have so many votes, I could probably walk in with a walker, but we’ll use a wheelchair. Now, there are certain rules what you can and cannot do on the Senate floor. I'm usually the prerogative as president pro temp, dean of the Senate. I have a black wheelchair. Do you know what's on each side panel? A bat signal. You might as well have a sense of humor about all this.

"I am so thrilled to be going back. Man, I've missed it."
Sen. Patrick Leahy

Well, as you mentioned, there's a big bill coming up this week that's going to require you to be there. That's the Schumer-Manchin bill. You're looking at dozens of dozens of votes in what in the Senate is called a “vote-a-rama.” So your plan is to be there for all those votes?

I'm going to have to — Vice President Harris and I have, we've been coordinating the leadership, administered a whole series of calls. And I'll be there. I've cast more votes than anybody else in the Senate as it is, but it's not for the numbers. I have to be there. And what we're going to do — as president pro tem, I've got an office pretty close to the Senate chamber. I can go in and out. I'll probably use a wheelchair just instead of trying to walk, simply because there's going to be so many votes. But I will make — if it requires going around the clock, there are things in my office where I can do that.

The votes I missed during this time, none of them were 50-50. But this is important.

Sen. Patrick Leahy it sounds like you've got an incredibly busy week ahead of you. Many, many thanks for taking the time today to talk with us. We really appreciate it. And best of luck on your recovery.

Well, thank you Bob. That means a lot. I've been hearing that from a lot of Vermonters. I just felt everybody was calling up. I am so thrilled to be going back. Man, I've missed it.

Have questions, comments, or concerns? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Bob Kinzel:

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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