Average age of House Democrats

Republicans

71

70 years old

70 years old

Leadership

Leadership

60

60

58

57

53

50

50

Entire party

Entire party

1963

2019

1963

2019

Average age of

House Democrats

Republicans

71

70 years old

70 years old

Leadership

Leadership

60

60

58

57

53

50

50

Entire party

Entire party

1963

2019

1963

2019

Average age of House Democrats

71

70 years old

Leadership

60

58

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Republicans

70 years old

Leadership

60

57

53

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Average age of House Democrats

71

70 years old

Leadership

60

58

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Republicans

70 years old

Leadership

60

57

53

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Average age of House Democrats

71

70 years old

Leadership

60

58

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Republicans

70 years old

Leadership

60

57

53

50

Entire party

1963

2019

Leadership includes speaker of the House, majority leader, minority leader and whips, and caucus/conference chairmen.

Update (Jan. 3): Pelosi appears to have secured the votes needed to reclaim the House speakership. We’ve updated the charts and text below with the latest information for the 116th Congress.

There’s a new crop of lawmakers starting on Capitol Hill today, some who are three generations removed from current Democratic leadership. That divide — set to be the largest in more than 50 years — had an insurgent group of younger Democrats calling for change at the top.

But it did not prevent California Rep. Nancy Pelosi from returning as speaker — the first to reclaim the gavel in decades. Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the top three House Democrats, all in their late 70s, are poised to return to the top three slots in Democratic leadership.

[Does Pelosi have the votes to become speaker?]

While no Democrat emerged to challenge Pelosi, at least 11 freshmen indicated they would not back her for speaker. In the end, most incumbents who had opposed Pelosi struck a term limits deal that would allow her to serve for four more years, giving her the necessary votes.

Age distribution of House Democrats Hover for lawmaker info
Newly elected Previously in House

House Republicans
Newly elected Previously in House

Age distribution of House Democrats

Newly elected

Previously in House

Millennials

Generation X

Baby boomers

Silent generation

14 new,

16 total

29 new,

69 total

14 new,

119 total

1 new,

27 total

Pelosi

30

years

40

50

60

70

80

House Republicans

Newly elected

Previously in House

Millennials

Generation X

Baby boomers

Silent generation

6 new,

10 total

14 new,

64 total

10 new,

113 total

1 new,

11 total

McCarthy

30

years

40

50

60

70

80

Age distribution of House Democrats

Newly elected

Previously in House

Millennials

Generation X

Baby boomers

Silent generation

14 new,

16 total

29 new,

69 total

14 new,

119 total

1 new,

27 total

Pelosi

30

years

40

50

60

70

80

House Republicans

Newly elected

Previously in House

Millennials

Generation X

Baby boomers

Silent generation

6 new,

10 total

14 new,

64 total

10 new,

113 total

1 new,

11 total

McCarthy

30

years

40

50

60

70

80

Age distribution of House

Newly elected

Previously in House

Democrats

Republicans

Millenials

30

years

Generation X

40

50

McCarthy

Baby

boomers

60

70

Silent

Generation

Pelosi

80

Age distribution of House

Newly elected

Previously in House

Democrats

Republicans

Millenials

30

years

Generation X

40

50

McCarthy

Baby

boomers

60

70

Silent

Generation

Pelosi

80

The result in North Carolina’s 9th District has not yet been certified, so that representative is excluded from this chart. Generation definitions from Pew Research Center.

Baby boomers are by far the largest generation in both House Democratic and Republican ranks, making up 52 and 57 percent of each caucus, respectively.

Fifty-six year-old Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), once considered a possible replacement, unexpectedly lost his primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at the time a 28-year-old activist. She then became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Republicans, too, added millennials to their ranks. Six new Republicans are of that generation including Reps. Dan Crenshaw (Tex.) and Bryan Steil, who will replace Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st District.

[Dan Crenshaw started the week as a punchline and ended it as a star. The real story came before that.]

But the average age for Republicans will inch up in the next Congress, after the defeat of some younger GOP incumbents and failure of other young candidates to pick up open seats.

In 1994, Republicans, led by House speaker Newt Gingrich, instituted term limits for committee chairmen, and several opted to retire this year. Democrats do not have a similar term-limit rule on committee chairmen.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who unseated an incumbent and called for new leadership in her campaign, tweeted her support for Pelosi. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Incoming lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks with reporters after a member-elect class photo on Nov. 14. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Pelosi has pitched herself as the experienced political force that Democrats need to stand up to the president and the lone female voice in high-level discussions.

The Speaker vote remains an early test of loyalty among those who expressed skepticism or outright refused during the campaign to back Pelosi.

“I made a commitment to my district that I would not be supporting Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill, a 46-year-old Democrat who flipped New Jersey’s 11th District.

Reps.-elect Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), center, and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), to her right in blue, have said they will vote against Pelosi for speaker of the House. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Several incoming lawmakers ran in areas Donald Trump won in 2016 and distanced themselves from Pelosi, who Republicans have caricatured as a symbol of liberal elitism.

“I am not voting for her — no if, ands or buts, under any circumstances,” Rep.-elect Max Rose, 31, told Fox News. Rose beat a Republican incumbent for this Staten Island-based district that Trump carried by 10 points.

Not all freshman Democrats have expressed opposition to Pelosi’s leadership. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that she admires that Pelosi “comes from a space of activism and organizing.” The same day, Ocasio-Cortez rallied climate change activists who were waging a sit-in in Pelosi’s office.

“Nancy Pelosi has proven herself as a first-rate legislator,” said Rep.-elect Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) on Tuesday. Shalala, a former Clinton Cabinet official, is the oldest member of the freshman class at 77 years old.

Pelosi, she would be the first speaker to regain the gavel since Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) did so in 1955 at age 72. Pelosi begins the term at 78.

Age of House speakers

Start of speakership

End

Democrat

Republican

Pelosi?

80 years old

Rayburn

Rayburn

70

Pelosi

McCormack

Martin

Wright

O’Neill

Albert

Martin

60

Boehner

Foley

Hastert

Rayburn

50

Gingrich

Ryan

40

1940

1960

1980

2000

2018

Age of House speakers

Democrat

Republican

Start of speakership

End

80 years old

Pelosi?

Rayburn

70

Rayburn

Pelosi

McCormack

Martin

Wright

O’Neill

Albert

60

Martin

Boehner

Foley

Rayburn

Hastert

50

Gingrich

Ryan

40

1940

1960

1980

2000

2018

Age of House speakers

Democrat

Start of speakership

End

Republican

Pelosi?

80 years old

70

Pelosi

Martin

60

O’Neill

Boehner

Rayburn

50

Gingrich

Ryan

40

1940

1960

1980

2000

2018

Age of House speakers

Democrat

Start of speakership

End

Republican

Pelosi?

80 years old

70

Pelosi

Martin

60

O’Neill

Boehner

Rayburn

50

Gingrich

Ryan

40

1940

1960

1980

2000

2018

Age of House speakers

Democrat

Republican

Start of speakership

End

Pelosi?

80 years old

70

Pelosi

60

Boehner

Rayburn

50

Gingrich

Ryan

40

1940

1960

1980

2000

2018

Her next challenge will be corralling a set of fresh-faced Democratic lawmakers, many who are less willing to go along with the party line.

Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Alice Crites contributed to this report.

About this story

House membership data from the United States Project, based on the Congressional Biographical Directory. Leadership data from the House Office of the Historian. Generation definitions from Pew Research Center. Incoming lawmaker birthdates from CQ/Roll Call.

Originally published Nov. 14, 2018.

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