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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Photo: Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Monday he will retire instead of seeking re-election in 2022 — 46 years after first assuming the office in 1975.

Why it matters: Leahy, 81, is the longest-serving sitting senator, and his retirement opens up a new, likely Democratic seat.

What they're saying: Leahy said from the Vermont statehouse that he and his wife, Marcelle, concluded that “it is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home.”

  • "Now, I'm proud to be Vermont's longest-serving senator because I know my time in the Senate has made a difference for Vermonters and, I hope, often well beyond. I know I was there for my state when I was needed most," he said.

Leahy, known for taking photos around the Capitol and his appearances in "Batman" films, is also the current president pro tempore of the Senate, putting him third in the line of presidential succession, after Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

  • He is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the senior-most member of the Judiciary and Agriculture committees.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Alayna Treene: Some Democratic aides are worried that an announcement this early on could complicate future negotiations over current appropriations bills, given senators often lose leverage after they announce retirement plans.

  • However, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the Republican ranking member on the committee, is also not running for re-election. 

The big picture: Vermont's lone representative, Peter Welch (D), is expected to run for Leahy's seat.

  • It is so far unclear if Leahy's fellow Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders (I), will endorse Welch or let a completive primary play out.
  • Leahy presided over former President Trump's second impeachment trial this year.
  • The senator was hospitalized this year, and his wife is undergoing cancer treatment.

Of note: Had he announced plans to run for re-election and won, he would have become the longest-serving senator in American history, passing West Virginia's Robert Byrd.

  • Leahy made his retirement announcement from the same room in the Vermont statehouse where he announced his Senate run in 1974, according to his staff.

Go deeper

Burnout, money, concern drive Harris turnover

Vice President Kamala Harris and another potential 2024 presidential candidate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appeared together Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Burnout, better opportunities and concern about being permanently branded a "Harris person" is driving some of the turnover in Vice President Kamala Harris's office, people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: Harris is not only a heartbeat from the presidency but, by virtue of her office, the presumed 2024 frontrunner if President Biden doesn't seek re-election. There's been an inordinate amount of disarray — and, now, turnover — throughout her tenure.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

55 mins ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

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