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Q&A: Family ties in Congress

Family ties in Congress

Ron Paul serves in the House of Representatives and his son, Rand Paul, is a newly elected senator. Are there other examples of similar family relationships in the history of Congress?

According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, more than 400 parent-child combinations have served in Congress. But only a handful of those parents and children served at the same time.

Betty K. Koed, associate historian for the Senate, said Sen. Henry Dodge of Wisconsin (30th-34th Congress) and son Sen. Augustus C. Dodge of Iowa (30th-33rd Congress) are the only father-son combination to serve simultaneously in the Senate.

There are other examples of parents and children serving concurrently: Frances (mother) and Oliver P. Bolton (both in the House), 1953-56; Stuart (Senate) and James Symington (House), 1969-76; and Edward (Senate) and Patrick Kennedy (House), 1995-2010.

Midterm election turnout

During the midterm election, what percentage of registered U.S. voters voted?

In the midterm election, about 41 percent of eligible voters (about 90 million out of 218 million) voted nationally, according to Michael McDonald at George Mason University. See elections.gmu.edu/index.html for specifics.

Alan I. Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University, said it's important to look at eligible voters, not registered voters. Eligible voters are individuals who are U.S. citizens, are 18 or older, and don't have felonies or other situations that would keep them from voting, other than that they have to register to do so, he said.

Origins of term 'lame duck'

From where did the term "lame duck" originate in politics?

The term dates to the late 1700s in England, but it didn't have anything to do with politics and has different derivations, depending on the source.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that a "lame duck" in the late 1700s referred to British stockbrokers unable to pay their debts, while Victorian-era dictionaries say the term was derived from old Gaelic words for hand (lamh) and misfortune (diugan).

By the mid 1800s, newspapers were calling politicians who stayed in office awaiting their successors as lame ducks, with "their clout clipped by their dwindling days in power."

Returning lawmakers who are not going to be in the next Congress are informally called "lame-duck" members participating in a "lame-duck" session in which Congress, or either chamber, reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections, according to senate.gov.

Q&A: Family ties in Congress 01/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 3:31am]
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