Nearly half of the Senate — 26 Democrats and 22 Republicans — served in the House either directly before being elected to their current job or at some previous point in their careers in elected office.
(Worth noting: Cruz as well as Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky — a Republican trio who have wreaked considerable havoc in the Senate this year — did not serve in the House before being elected to the upper chamber.)
Chris Cillizza is founder and editor of The Fix, a leading blog on state and national politics. He is the author of The Gospel According to the Fix: An Insider’s Guide to a Less than Holy World of Politics and an MSNBC contributor and political analyst. He also regularly appears on NBC and NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show. He joined The Post in 2005 and was named one of the top 50 journalists by Washingtonian in 2009.
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What’s perhaps more telling than the number of House members now in the Senate is the sheer newness of the vast majority of the body. Six years ago, 44 senators had served at least three terms; today that number is 32. At the start of the 113th Congress, more than half of the senators had served one full term or less.
Deaths (Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye) and defeats (Dick Lugar, Bob Bennett) over the past few years have contributed to a loss of old bulls — and institutional wisdom — the likes of which the Senate hasn’t endured in generations. And some pending retirements (Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin, Tom Harkin) will only continue the trend.
That the Senate is a different — more partisan, less collegial — place than it was even a decade ago has taken a toll on its membership. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who shocked the political world by retiring in 2012, acknowledged that changed reality bluntly in an op-ed for The Post roughly a year ago. “The Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned,” she wrote.
Not all is lost, argued Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) who succeeded him as senator from 2009 to 2010.
“We experienced in the 112th Congress a unique period where the House was taken over by a hyper-partisan Republican Party,” Kaufman said. “The results of the last election are already mitigating that.”
Maybe. The next few months will put the Senate’s identity to the test as immigration, guns and the budget — all of which have deeply divided the chamber of late — will come up for votes. Will it define itself as a second House or truly the “upper chamber”?
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