Oldest Members of Current U.S. Senate

10 Oldest Members of Current U.S. Senate

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As the upper chamber of Congress, the United States Senate is home to some of the most powerful people in America. Since there are currently no limits on how often a senator can run for reelection, for better or for worse, many of them successfully manage to hold on to their positions for several decades, consecutively winning reelection every six years. Additionally, senators tend to be senior citizens, as all of the senators, who range in age from 76 to 87, on this list prove.

As of February 2021, the information on this list is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed.

10. Angus King (March 31, 1944 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 76 years, 10 months, 8 days
State: Maine
Political Party: Independent, but caucuses with Democrats
Assumed Office: January 3, 2013

King Jr Angusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Angus King is the other Independent politician, in addition to Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. King has been serving as the junior senator from Maine since 2013, who replaced the retiring Republican Olympia Snowe. He has also served as the Governor of Maine from 1995 – 2003.

Soon after graduating from law school, King entered private law practice in Brunswick, Maine. King served as chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Alcoholism and Narcotics as well as a legislative assistant to Democratic U.S. Senator William Hathaway in the 1970s. In Maine, King was also known for being a host on public television.

Did You Know?

In 1989, Angus King founded Northeast Energy Management, Inc., a company that developed and operated electrical energy conservation projects.


9. Ben Cardin (October 5, 1943 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 77 years, 4 months, 3 days
State: Maryland
Political Party: Democratic
Assumed Office: January 3, 2007

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Ben Cardin is the senior senator from Maryland and was first elected in 2006. Before the Senate, Cardin was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 2007. Cardin has been in politics for several decades, first serving as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967 to 1987. He was Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 until his election to the House of Representatives – Cardin was the youngest person to hold the position of Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates in history.

Cardin has pretty much been in politics his entire adult life as he was still attending law school when he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1967 and worked for private practice of Rosen and Esterson until he became a Congressman.

Did You Know?

Ben Cardin has never lost an election in his half-century career as an elected official.


8. Jim Risch (May 3, 1943 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 77 years, 9 months, 5 days
State: Idaho
Political Party: Republican
Assumed Office: January 3, 2009

Jim Rischphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although Jim Risch is currently one of the oldest senators, compared to some of the others on this list, he has only been a senator for a relatively short time. However, Risch has been in politics for several decades, first as a member of the Idaho Senate. Risch then became the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho and briefly served as the Governor when Dirk Kempthorne resigned to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2006.

After graduating from law school, Risch worked as Ada County Prosecuting Attorney. Risch also taught undergraduate classes in criminal justice at Boise State College and served as the president of the state’s prosecuting attorneys’ association.

Did You Know?

During his tenure in the Idaho Senate, Jim Risch became a millionaire as one of Idaho’s most successful trial lawyers.


7. Mitch McConnell (February 20, 1942 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 78 years, 11 months, 19 days
State: Kentucky
Political Party: Republican
Assumed Office: January 3, 1985

Mitch McConnellphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Mitch McConnell is currently the senior senator from Kentucky, who has been serving in the Senate since 1985. Although McConnell was a more moderate Republican early in his career, he has since become one of the most controversial figures ever in American politics. McConnell has held a leadership role among the Senate Republicans for several decades (he is the longest-serving leader of U.S. Senate Republicans in history), first serving as Majority Whip, then minority leader, and eventually majority leader. Following Democratic control of the Senate after the 2020 election, McConnell is once again minority leader.

Prior to politics, McConnell was in law and served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and the Jefferson County judge/executive, which was the top political office in Jefferson County, Kentucky, at the time.

Did You Know?

Mitch McConnell is the second Kentuckian to serve as a party leader in the Senate and the longest-serving U.S. senator for Kentucky in history.


6. Bernie Sanders (September 8, 1941 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 79 years, 5 months
State: Vermont
Political Party: Independent, but caucuses with Democrats
Assumed Office: January 3, 2007

Bernie Sandersphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Bernie Sanders is perhaps one of the most popular presidential candidates in recent history, who became a household name after his 2016 bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Sanders, the longest-serving independent in U.S. Congressional history, was able to raise millions of dollars through  grassroots fundraisers (the average donation to his campaign was only $27), rather than relying on big-money fundraisers fueled by super PACs. Sanders was once again in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, but dropped out to support Joe Biden’s run against Donald Trump.

Before his election to the Senate, Sanders had served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1990 – 2007. Sanders was also the mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 – 1989. In 2021, Sanders became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

Did You Know?

Although Bernie Sanders failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, he is credited with influencing a leftward shift in the Democratic Party toward more progressive and socialist policies that would help all Americans.


5. Patrick Leahy (March 31, 1940 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 80 years, 10 months, 8 days
State: Vermont
Political Party: Democratic
Assumed Office: January 3, 1975

Patrick Leahyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Patrick Leahy is currently the President pro tempore of the United States Senate and the senior senator from Vermont. Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and has previously served as President pro tempore from 2012 – 2015. Additionally, Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate of either party and is the last of he Senate’s “Watergate Babies” – Democrats first elected to Congress in 1974, following President Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal

Like many politicians, Leahy was a lawyer and he served as State’s Attorney of Chittenden County from 1966 until he became a senator. Leahy is now the longest-serving senator ever from Vermont as well as the only Democrat ever elected to Senate from the state. He is also one of only three Democrats to represent Vermont in either house of Congress since the end of the Civil War.

Did You Know?

Patrick Leahy was only 34 years old when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, making him the youngest U.S. senator in Vermont history.


4. Jim Inhofe (November 17, 1934 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 86 years, 2 months, 22 days
State: Oklahoma
Political Party: Republican
Assumed Office: November 16, 1994

Jim Inhofephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Jim Inhofe is another senator who is currently in his late 80s. Inhofe, who was first elected in 1994, is now the senior senator from Oklahoma. Before entering politics, Inhofe was a businessman for 30 years, working in aviation, as a real estate developer, and in insurance, eventually becoming the president of the Quaker Life Insurance Company.

Inhofe became politically active in the mid-1960s and served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Oklahoma Senate, and the Mayor of Tulsa for two terms. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 until his Senate election in 1994. Since then, Inhofe has become known for his controversial opinions, especially as a global warming/climate change denier.

Did You Know?

In 2006, Jim Inhofe proposed the Inhofe Amendment, which would make English the “national language” of the United States. While the amendment was passed by the Senate by a vote of 62–35, the bill did not pass the House of Representatives.


3. Richard Shelby (May 6, 1934 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 86 years, 9 months, 2 days
State: Alabama
Political Party: Republican
Assumed Office: January 3, 1987

Richard Shelbyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Richard Shelby was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and is the longest-serving senator from Alabama, having surpassed John Sparkman’s previous record in March 2019. Prior to starting his political career, Shelby was a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and later served as a Special Assistant State Attorney General for the state.

After this, Shelby was elected to the Alabama Senate, a position he held until 1978 when he was elected U.S. House of Representatives. Initially, Shelby was registered as a Democrat, albeit a conservative one, who often worked with Republican President Ronald Reagan on defense issues. In 1994, midway through President Bill Clinton’s first term, Shelby switched over to the Republican Party.

Did You Know?

Richard Shelby has held several important positions in the Senate, including Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.


2. Chuck Grassley (September 17, 1933 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 87 years, 4 months, 22 days
State: Iowa
Political Party: Republican
Assumed Office: January 3, 1981

Chuck Grassleyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Chuck Grassley is a long-serving Republican senator from Iowa and is only a few months younger than Dianne Feinstein, the oldest senator on this list. Grassley was first elected as an Iowa senator back in 1980 and has been re-elected each time he’s ran for office since then.

Before becoming a senator, Grassley served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1959 – 1975 and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until he was elected to the Senate. In 2019, following the retirement of Orrin Hatch, Grassley became the most senior Republican in the Senate and was elected president pro tempore of the current Senate.

Did You Know?

In January 2016, Chuck Grassley set a record for the most time without a missed roll-call vote, having not missed one since July 1993. However, this streak was broken in November 2020, after over 27 years and 8,927 votes, when Grassley quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19.


1. Dianne Feinstein (June 22, 1933 – Present)

Current Age (as of February 2021): 87 years, 7 months, 17 days
State: California
Political Party: Democratic
Assumed Office: November 4, 1992

Dianne Feinsteinphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Dianne Feinstein is currently the oldest U.S. Senator at the age of 87. Feinstein has been serving as a senator from California for more than 28 years. After graduating from Stanford University, Feinstein has spent her entire career around or in politics.

Feinstein was on the California Women’s Parole Board from 1960 – 1966. This was followed up by Feinstein’s election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969, where she remained until she became the first female mayor of San Francisco in 1978. In 1990, Feinstein made an unsuccessful bid for governor of California, but was elected to the Senate two years later.

Did You Know?

If Dianne Feinstein carries out her remaining term in office, she will become the longest-tenured female senator ever as well as the longest-serving senator from California.


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