Facebook Hearings Show Congress Needs Fresh Blood

(Bloomberg View) -- The main effect of the Facebook hearing on Tuesday, as far as I could tell, was to remind lots of Americans that the U.S. Senate is really old:

Brian Fung @b_fung
Sen. Blunt's jokes are cute, but the fact that so few of America's top electeds are digital natives has *enormous*… https://t.co/sM6dWPZXyb

Fair enough, although it's worth pointing out that if Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans hadn't eliminated the Office of Technology Assessment and otherwise slashed congressional staff levels, it's possible that senators would ask better questions even if they were old. 

The Senate hasn't become so old because of folks such as Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, who were elected long ago and stayed for decades. It's because new senators are increasingly older. The trio of new senators over the last several months are great examples: Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith is 58. Minnesota's Tina Smith just turned 60. And Alabama's Doug Jones is 63. 

It's still a little early to assess which new senators the November elections are likely to produce, but we can take a quick peek using the National Journal's top 10 Senate seats most likely to change hands this year. I'll run through seven, starting with the most likely (all ages as of when the new Congress will begin in January 2019): 

  • In Nevada, Democrats will almost certainly nominate Jacky Rosen, who will be 61.
  • In Indiana, the Republican primary is a battle between Mike Braun (64 in January), Luke Messer (49) and Todd Rokita (48).
  • Republicans are actually behind a young candidate in Missouri: Josh Hawley (39).
  • But not in North Dakota, where they'll nominate Kevin Cramer, who turns 58 in January. 
  • Or Florida, where Republican Governor Rick Scott will be 66.
  • Arizona is an open seat. Democrats will nominate Kyrsten Sinema (42). Republicans will choose between Martha McSally (52) and Kelli Ward (49) -- unless they surprise everyone and pick Joe Arpaio, who will be 86.
  • It's not in the top 10, but I'll add open-seat Tennessee, which will be a fight between Republican Marsha Blackburn (66) and Democrat Phil Bredesen (75). 

That's pretty typical of what's been happening in recent years. A few new senators in their 30s and 40s have been elected, such as Indiana's Todd Young (44 last January), but those are exceptions. 

New 60-year-old senators were once rare, and incoming classes of new senators had average ages several years younger than is common now. It's very good for the Senate to have some aging baby boomers and even a few born before World War II ended, but it would also be good to have far more born in the 1970s and 1980s (and, if the Constitution allowed it, more recently). 

1. Gregory J. Martin and Josh McCrain at the Monkey Cage on what Sinclair stations put on the news.

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Sarah Kreps and Sarah Maxey on public opinion and humanitarian crises.

3. Benjamin Wittes on the Michael Cohen raid and what's next. One key point: "There is no way that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York would have sought or executed a search warrant against the president’s lawyer without overpowering evidence to support the action." Wittes has been an excellent guide to the legal aspects of the various Donald Trump scandals; I highly recommend him. 

4. Ed Kilgore on Henry Waxman and health-care incrementalism

5. Anita Kumar on President Trump's orthodox Republican nominees

6. David Drucker on Republican Senate candidates.

7. Heather Hurlburt on Syria.

8. And my Bloomberg View colleague Shira Ovide on Mark Zuckerberg's day facing senators.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

To contact the author of this story: Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

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