Does the Senate need a new caucus?

November 15, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 31: (L-R) Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pose for photographs after Booker's ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol October 31, 2013 in Washington, DC. Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan in a special election to replace Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), left, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Vice President  Biden and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) pose after Booker’s swearing-in in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31, 2013. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

How about a special Senate caucus for past and present seat-warmers, those who are appointed to fill a resigned or dead senator’s seat till the next election?

We could it the call it the Senate Seat-Warmers Caucus or SSWC.

There have been more appointed senators than you might think. The Senate Historian’s office counts 192 appointees in the past 100 years.

Of those, 72 did not run for the office, 57 ran but were defeated, and 63 were subsequently elected. (One, Maine’s George Mitchell, later became majority leader.)

There have been 23 such appointments in the past two decades and all of them are still alive.

Even so, the SSWC could easily fit in the old Senate chamber for their monthly meetings to reminisce about how easy it was to do their actual jobs when they didn’t have to raise money incessantly.

And even though they got there by dint of appointment rather than election — and some served only a few months — it’s not as if they didn’t do something of note while they were there.

For example, Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), who briefly replaced Ted Kennedy, delivered the 60th vote on Christmas eve 2009 for Obamacare. Six-month Sen. William “Mo” Cowan, another Massachusetts Democrat who replaced John Kerry, at least left a memorable quote:  “When Mo Cowan comes to the Senate, interesting things happen.” And Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who replaced Joe Biden, was a key author of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to curb chicanery by banks and investment companies.

Four other recent appointees who never got elected include: former senators  Jeffrey S. Chiesa (R-N.J.), who went back to his old law firm this week after five fun months replacing Frank Lautenburg;  Roland Burris (D-Ill.) who replaced President Obama for a couple years;  Carte Goodwin (D-W.Va.), who served for three months after Bob Byrd’s death; and George LeMieux (R-Fla.), who served for 16 months after Mel Martinez decided in 2009 that he didn’t want the job any more.

A second membership category could include appointed senators who won recent elections to full terms.  That group would include: Sens. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.),  Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Others who started as appointees are current Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.); John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Sen. Tim Scott (R. S.C.), appointed to replace Jim DeMint, and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), appointed in December 2012 to fill the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye’s seat, are expected to run for those offices. Win or lose, they’d be welcome additions to the caucus.

And remember, even if you served just a couple months over the holidays, like Sen. Dean Barkley (I-Minn.) back in 2002, you still enjoy the right to forever be called “senator,” join the gym, have Senate floor privileges, eat in the Senate dining room and attend the weekly policy luncheons and always be “The Honorable” on invitations and such.

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Al Kamen | November 15, 2013