The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Rapidly Aging Democratic House Majority

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) attend a House Democrats news conference to reintroduce the H.R.7 “Paycheck Fairness Act” on Capitol Hill, January 30, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Today’s New York Times has a morbid but insightful article pointing out that the Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress is dependent upon the continuing good health of quite a few elderly members.

One detail that the article doesn’t lay out is that while both parties have plenty of members that are long in the tooth, the oldest members of the House are mostly Democrats.

Yes, the oldest member of the House is Alaska Republican Don Young is 87, and Hal Rogers of Kentucky is 83. But among the seasoned citizens in the Democratic House caucus, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas is 85. Grace Napolitano of California, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey are 84. Maxine Waters of California is 82, Steny Hoyer of Maryland turns 82 next month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is 81, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, David Price of North Carolina and Allen Lowenthal of California are 80, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and Danny Davis of Illinois are 79, and Frederica Wilson of Florida is 78.

For perspective, all of those elected officials are older than Joe Biden. Most of the House Democratic leadership has been too old to fly a commercial airliner for a decade and a half.

The increasing health risks to aging senators is somewhat less of a worry for Democrats, as most Democratic senators represent states where a Democratic governor would name an interim appointed senator.

But as the Times notes, “a single Democratic vacancy could hand Republicans committee gavels and the power to schedule votes until a Democratic successor was appointed or elected.” And in the case of Vermont, the current Republican governor, Phil Scott, is not obligated to appoint a Democrat if 79-year-old Bernie Sanders or 81-year-old Patrick Leahy cannot continue their duties. (Yes, among Vermont senators, Bernie Sanders is “the young one.”) Dianne Feinstein of California is the oldest U.S. senator, at age 87, a few months older than Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

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