Wednesday’s tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida has once more pushed the debate over guns in this country to the forefront and prompted feelings of frustration and anger that political leaders merely offer “thoughts and prayers” and don’t take legislative steps to address gun violence.
Could Congress’s obstinance be related to the age of the 435 representatives and 100 senators that serve in both houses? Analytics firm Quorum had an interesting article last year looking at the age of the 115th Congress, which it found was the oldest in U.S. history.
In 2017, the median age in the U.S. is 38. Today, the average age of a representative in the House of Representatives is 57, while the average age of a senator is 61. More surprising, one-third of the representatives in Congress over the age of 60 represent political districts where the median age is 35 or younger, and according to Quorum, there are 44 districts in the United States where the age of the representative is more than double the median age of their constituents. As you can see on the chart above, 60 percent of Senators up for reelection in 2018 and 2020 are over the age of 65.
How does it divide down party lines? According to Quorum, “average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72 years old, whereas the average age of Republican House leadership is 48 years old. This trend continues in House committee leadership with Republican chairmen averaging 59 years old and ranking Democrats averaging 68 years old.”
What does it mean to be served by the oldest Congress in history and what does it tell us about our chances for bi-partisan reform? The Washington Post had a great piece in December looking at how the age (eight members 80 or older serve in 2018) — and ailments — of the Senate has affected how it does business.
On whether he’ll run for reelection in 2022 when he’s 89, Senator Chuck Grassley told the paper “If I can run three miles four times a week, I’ll be running for reelection.” At least 74-year-old Senator Patrick Leahy knows when it’s time to go.
“If I reach the point that I can’t go scuba diving and do my somersaults, that will be one clear indication,” he said.