Sen. Dianne Feinstein died, according to a statement from her office, which gave no cause. At 90, she was the oldest member of the Senate and, alongside Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, who has experienced numerous health problems in recent months, Feinstein’s health has attracted attention on the age and health of the legislature.
Overall, Congress is aging.
The current class of lawmakers is one of the oldest in history, with an overall median age of 59. The median age of senators is 65, the highest on record. In the House, the median age has hovered between 57 and 58 over the past decade, more than any year before that time.
These numbers have continued to rise since the 2000s, even as the country elects younger members. The freshman class sworn in this year was the youngest in recent history, with 18 new lawmakers under the age of 40 elected to both chambers.
But older generations still dominate Congress, and debates over term limits, ageism and the overall fitness of the gerontocracy to lead the nation have become a hallmark of American political discourse.
McConnell is the third-oldest senator and one of more than two dozen members from the Silent Generation born between the late 1920s and the end of World War II.
Congress has long been older than the overall U.S. population, and the nation’s median age is also increasing. But with baby boomers, the generation after McConnell and Feinstein, making up nearly half of Congress, the age distribution among lawmakers is unlikely to change significantly in the near future.
Millennials such as JD Vance (R-Ohio), 39, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 33, make up just 12% of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. And Generation Z is represented by just one member, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), who became the youngest member of this Congress and the first elected official of his generation when he won his race in the district encompassing Orlando last fall.