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Senate's aging power brokers seeking re-election

WASHINGTON — Millennials have emerged as the nation's largest living generation yet that demographic shift isn't reflected in the upper reaches of the Republican-controlled Senate, where the body's oldest members are the power brokers.

And several are asking voters for new six-year terms.

At 82, Chuck Grassley wants Iowans to send him back to the Senate for a seventh time. The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee pitches his seniority as a plus, telling voters he gives them a "big voice at the policymaking tables" in Washington.

Arizona's John McCain, the 79-year-old chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also is running for re-election. So are Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee chairman who turned 82 on Friday, and 71-year-old Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who leads the Veterans' Affairs Committee and the Senate's ethics panel.

Other committees are controlled by senior Republicans whose terms don't end for at least a few more years. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is 82 and has been a senator since 1977 — the same year Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president, Elvis Presley died and the first Stars Wars movie came out.

Oklahoma's James Inhofe is 81 and heads the Environment and Public Works Committee. Pat Roberts of Kansas, 80, runs the Agriculture Committee and 78-year-old Thad Cochran of Mississippi leads the powerful Appropriations Committee. At 75, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is 74.

Three senior Democrats have opted to retire at the end of the year: Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is 76, along with Maryland's Barbara Mikulski, 79, and California's Barbara Boxer, 75.

But Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, 76, is running for another term. Leahy, first elected in 1974, has been in office longer than any other currently serving senator — 41 years. He's the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

The average age of all senators actually has decreased from 63 to 61 since 2009 due to younger members from political parties being elected, according to the Congressional Research Service. The youngest are members of Generation X: Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who turns 39 on May 13, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., 41.

Grassley isn't the oldest senator. He's a few months younger than Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who turns 83 on June 22.

Senate's aging power brokers seeking re-election 05/08/16 [Last modified: Sunday, May 8, 2016 10:02pm]
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