Grayest Congress in History

The current congressional delegation is the oldest in history.

Grayest Congress in History Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., is an institution. He’s the longest serving senator in U.S. history. He’s also 88 years old, and if he wins re-election — he’s the clear favorite in his race — he’ll be 95 at the end of his ninth term. But Byrd isn’t alone. Also up for re-election is Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who is 82 and would be 88 at the end of his third term, if re-elected. And over in the House, the 83-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, is running for a 14th term.

Congress, in fact, is the grayest it’s ever been, and don’t expect this to change much after the November midterms. The average age of a senator is 60 (the oldest ever) and the average age of a member of the House is 55 (the oldest in more than a century).

The aging Congress, experts say, is partly a reflection of more members — like Byrd and Akaka — deciding to stay in office for their own personal reasons. But it’s also a reflection of their political parties wanting them to stay. “What is indisputable is that both parties are begging their incumbents to continue serving, regardless of age,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, wrote at the beginning of this election cycle.

This isn’t all that surprising, given that the population overall is aging, as is the electorate. Indeed, 60 is practically middle-aged in terms of the median health levels of that cohort.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    So Congress is getting older – and our Presidents are getting younger…

  2. floyd says:

    the parties want incumbancy because positions of power are distributed with seniority.also celebrity is more important to a lazy electorate than effective responsiveness.

  3. whatever says:

    When I first glanced at the headline I thought it said GAYIST congress in history, which is also probably true.

  4. carter says:

    This is sad. Young people are not involved enough in politics which goes to show that the next generation will have fewer leaders and future voter turnout will continue to decrease.

  5. Jo says:

    Just supports my belief in the need for term limits. They are out of touch.

  6. Just Me says:

    I think the problem isn’t so much that they are old, but that so many of them have been there for 30 years or so.

    While I am not super keen on term limits, the fact that essentially congress is a career and the job many of these men have held the longest doesn’t sit right with me.

    A part of me thinks doing away with those really nice pensions and other “after congress” perks is the better move to make. A person’s pension should come from their real career, and congress shouldn’t be a career.