When Patrick Leahy was briefly transported to the hospital Tuesday night – just hours after he had been sworn in to preside over the pending impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump – every story on the news noted that the Vermont Democratic senator was 80 years old.
Which, surely you would think, makes him the senior statesman in the Senate. Right?
Not by a long shot. There are actually four senators older than Leahy in the chamber, including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) who are both 87 years old. (Feinstein was elected to a fifth full term in 2018 although she has, of late, faced questions about her mental fitness for the job. Grassley remains undecided as to whether he will run for an eighth term next November.)
And it doesn’t stop there! There are 21 senators between 70 and 80 – including Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) who turns 80 this fall, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) who turns 79 next month.
Also, the 117th Congress – House and Senate – is the oldest, on average, of any Congress in two decades. The average age of senators in this Congress is 63.9, and the average age of a House member is 58.3. And Congress is getting older and older; in the 107th Congress, which meant from January 2001 to January 2003, senators were, on average, 4.6 years younger and House members were 4.4 years younger.
Here’s that aging of Congress in chart form:
Pretty amazing, right? (And even more amazing when you try to hold a handstand for as long as it takes a speech-to-text bot to read off the ages of every senator above age 65.)
Now, none of this may trouble you. And it clearly didn’t bother the voters of California, who elected Feinstein to another six-year term in 2018. (She will be in her early 90s if she serves it out.) And if Grassley decides to run again next November, he would be heavily favored to win a term that wouldn’t end until he was 95 years old.
What it does point out, however, is that Congress is not only far older than the average workplace, but trending even older. Which, if past is prologue, seems just fine with voters.