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 washingtonpost.com'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.
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