STUMP » Articles » Senate Mortality 2023: Top Ten Old Senators » 15 February 2023, 22:35

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Senate Mortality 2023: Top Ten Old Senators  

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15 February 2023, 22:35

I saw this on the Althouse blog:

“Senator Dianne Feinstein… announced on Tuesday that she would not run for re-election in 2024 but would finish out her term in Congress…”

“… Ms. Feinstein, 89, has had acute short-term memory issues for years that sometimes raise concern among those who interact with her. She has never acknowledged the problems…. Ms. Feinstein… these days struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement….”

The NYT reports.

Hard to understand how she can serve for 2 more years, but I’m sure she’s seen other cases of Senators in a similar condition, though it seems that at this point, she would not remember.

Now, Althouse’s point was about cognitive function.

As she notes, perhaps Feinstein, back when she could remember, would recall senators such as Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond

10 Oldest U.S. Senators that Ever Lived (Updated 2022)

(My kind of web page!)

Robert Byrd came in at number 3, having died as a senator at 92 years, 7 months, 8 days, dying in June 2010.

Strom Thurmond came in over 100 years old, dying in June 2003 but having “gracefully” exited the Senator waaaay back in January 2003 before that death.

Yeah, I’m not about to provide video proof of the supposed sharpness of either of these men in their last days serving in the Senate. I leave that to your own searches.

I’m here to talk about the real requirement to serve in the Senate.

That is: being alive.

Senate Age Distribution Update

This is getting to be a bit of a tradition. Last February, I decided to check on how old all the Senators were, as we were all sitting around waiting for Biden to nominate somebody for the Supreme Court.

Two deaths could have made the difference if Biden dithered for too long. Luckily, nobody died.

Now, I’m revisiting the Wikipedia page to check out the Senatorial ages again.

Here are the age distributions: [I am treating the 3 “independents” as Democrats, as they caucus with them]

Now, I am not going to be so silly as to try to figure out loss of control of the Senate due to deaths. As you can see, both Democrats and Republicans have some pretty old Senators.

That said, I am going to do a ranking table… and going to say a little something about presumption.

Top Ten Most Likely to Die Senators (using standard mortality tables)

I’m using the 2019 Period Life Table as used in the Social Security Trustees Report. To keep it simple, I’m just using “age last birthday”, and looking at the probability of dying within the next two years given this table.

So here are the top ten senators most likely to die under this approach (yes, these are the oldest senators, but given the difference in male and female mortality rates, theoretically there could have been some old women who didn’t make the list… if we had some more old female senators.)

So the reason I developed this in the first place was I found it a bit presumptuous to assume Feinstein would be around to fulfill the requirements to be a senator in two years.

Same goes for you, Grassley.

Seniority til it ends

I’ve shown projections from the 2019 Social Security Tables before, for both 2 years and 6 years:

This gives you an idea of the presumption shown for these post-80-year-olds running for the Senate.

Now, when Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond back in the day kept running and re-running for the Senate for West Virginia and South Carolina, respectively, the whole point for their constituencies was to keep bringing back pork barrel spending to their states. The argument, obviously, was they had “seniority” – couldn’t get more senior than that. As long as they kept wanting to run, they had their seats.

Though it was extremely obvious that their time was going to run out.

It is getting absurd when you have a variety of politicians where they act like they can keep choose to run for elections, as they can always get the votes…

…forgetting that Death has that final vote.

[no Chicago voter jokes, please]

Go to the substack post for the spreadsheet

Related posts

Feb 2022: Political mortality: on old people in the Senate and death probabilities

March 2021: Mortality with Meep: Likelihood of Senate Control Changing Due to Death

Feb 2021: Mortality with Meep: On The Congressional Body of Old Folks and Deaths in Office

July 2018: Supreme Court Mortality Projection Update!

Feb 2017: Mortality Monday: Supreme Court Probabilities

Apr 2017: Mortality Monday (with a little Trumpery): Supreme Court Probabilities Take 2

Sep 2020: Mortality with Meep: On increasing life expectancy and the Supreme Court

Jan 2019: Mortality with Meep: Death Distributions and Survival Probability


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