That Old Old Senate (and House)

I’ve been a little negligent on this front; I never got around to talking about the CRS report about the demographic characteristics of the current 112th Congress, especially on age. After, that is, I spent a good part of last year speculating about it. The result was that the 112th fell short of the record oldest Congress, which was the 111th, but is still older than the 110th…here are the numbers (in years):

Senate  112th  111th 110th   House 112th 111th 110th

            62.2    63.1   61.7                56.7  57.2   55.9

This comes up because yesterday Barney Frank announced that he’s retiring after this term. I wrote a bit about Frank over at Greg’s place this morning, but in this context I’ll emphasize that he will turn 72 in March, so his retirement helps a little as far as average age is concerned. Of course, Congresses elected in years that end in 0 typically have above-average retirements, thanks to redistricting and reapportionment…Frank is the second MA Member of the House to call it quits so far.

Let’s see…there are eight retiring Senators. Average age? 70.6. That helps! (Note: I’m just using what Roll Call posts for age; no idea what the “as of…” date is for them, but it’s close enough for now). Frank is the 9th Member of the House to retire; average age is 63.3 — curse, you, 38 year old Dan Boren!

Meanwhile, there are six Members who are 60+ who are leaving the House to run for other offices, including three running for the Senate. Yikes! You can be sure that Plain Blog will be rooting against all of them, all things being equal. For what it’s worth, the average age of the 15 Members leaving the House to run for other office is 55, so odds are that replacing them will slightly lower the overall age of the House (new Members this term averaged 48.2 years old).

I figure I should mention…I’m not against old legislators in general; in fact, I think it’s very healthy for Congress to feature a good number of experienced, senior Members with long, productive careers. I just think the US right now has way, way, way too many oldsters, and not nearly enough in their 30s and 40s. Or for that matter their 20s.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.