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A Sudden Infusion of Youth in the Senate

By Sarah Lovenheim

The turnover in the Senate in the past week has provided that venerable institution with a sudden infusion of youth.

On Thursday, the Senate's newest member also carried the title of "the youngest." Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), 44, was sworn in, filling the seat vacated by Ken Salazar, who recently became Interior Secretary. But by Friday, the Senate -- a chamber whose members were, on average, 62 years old in the last Congress -- learned it would seat an even younger appointee.

Governor David Paterson (N.Y.) announced his choice of Kirsten Gillibrand, 42, to fill Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat in New York, signifying that change isn't just hitting the White House, it's also hitting Congress.

As's Ben Pershing pointed out during the 110th Congress, the Senate has an "age issue." The Congressional Research Service reports on demographics of each Congress and called the 110th Congress "among the oldest" of any in our nation's history. At least one fourth of the Senate was over the age of 70.

Before the names of Bennet and soon-to-be-seated Gillibrand were added to the Senate roster, Sen. Mark Pryor was the Senate's youngest at 46 years old.

Could the arrival of Bennet and Gillibrand mark the start of a new trend toward a younger Senate? The average age of the Senate is not likely to plummet any time soon. But still, a number of elderly Senate members retired last year, including Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), 76, and John Warner (R-Va.), 81.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 24, 2009; 10:25 PM ET
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The majority of the Founding Fathers were all young men of purpose and ethics. So this seems like a good thing, being youthful. I hope they are filled with the purpose to duty and to humanity as the founding fathers.

Posted by: dsoulplane | January 25, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

When I listened to NPR this morning some guy, a baby boomer, made the comment that this is the first time a president was elected who is younger than he is. I still think there's merit to some of the oldies being around for a good mix of experience (like Ted Kennedy.)

Posted by: xvoliveoil | January 25, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see an age breakdown comparing Republican to Democrat at this time. I'll do tht on my own.

Posted by: balataf | January 26, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Bill Pershing. Either the old fold like Byrd retire willingly for obvious reasons with the care of the American peoples good policy making in mind in a new century or we set terms limits and force them to retire, in the same way regular folk are asked to retire out here in real life.
The old men and women should, as public service, serve the public by allowing new age, new thinking younger contemporary lawmakers to help run the government which is totally miss manged by the old ones.

Thank u Bill for being our voice. Job security for poor results produced should not go unnoticed. Enough is enough.

Posted by: llafair1 | January 26, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget that Ted Stevens "retired" last year too, so that probably brought the average age down too.

Posted by: VinceDC | January 26, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

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