Home » Politics » Democrats are just one heartbeat away from losing control of the Senate. We analyzed how precarious their 'gerontocracy' majority really is.
Democrats are just one heartbeat away from losing control of the Senate. We analyzed how precarious their 'gerontocracy' majority really is.
Sen. Patrick Leahy’s brief hospitalization illustrates the Democrats’ fragile hold on power.
5 Democratic senators and one Independent are 70+ and represent states with GOP governors.
If any of them can’t finish their term their GOP governor could appoint a Republican replacement, ending the Democrats’ Senate majority.
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Sen. Patrick Leahy gave the Washington establishment a scare last week when Capitol Hill doctors urged him to rush over to the hospital.
A couple days later the Vermont Democrat said he was fine — just muscle spasms — and that he intended to serve the remaining two years of his term. He’s back to work, but the 80-year-old’s health concern smack in the middle of a deadly global pandemic throws into sharp relief a major threat looming over the fragile Senate Democratic majority.
Six senators — five Democrats and an Independent who caucuses with them — are over age 70 and also represent states with a Republican governor who would have the power to appoint a temporary replacement in the event one of them is incapacitated or has to step down.
If any one of them were to leave the Senate within the next two years because of a retirement, health issues or other reasons, the Democrats could lose their control of the chamber and doom Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Concern about the advanced age of powerful senators is not new. It’s something Capitol Hill reporters have seen up close as they regularly interact with lawmakers who have served in Washington for decades, sometimes until the end of their lives.
But concerns over the Democrats’ ability to accomplish the agenda items that their increasingly young and diverse base commands has cast new light on an aging Senate that, like the rest of the world, is more susceptible to the detrimental and deadly health effects of COVID-19.
“The idea that control of the United States Senate is dependent on the medical care of a couple of very well-intentioned and highly capable senior citizens, that is not the way the government should function,” said Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton 2016 staffer and now the co-founder of Run for Something, a political group that trains and supports young people to run for office.
“It’s a hard conversation to have in a public space,” added Litman, sizing up the challenge when so many powerful fundraisers and party supporters are also older people. “It is a gerontocracy to the very core.”
Spokespeople for the six senators and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.