The new Congress that convenes on Tuesday will again feature a number of new faces, as even without a constitutional amendment on term limits for the U.S. House and Senate, turnover continues at a steady pace on Capitol Hill.
The 115th Congress will have 57 new members of the House, which is a 13 percent turnover, and seven new members in the Senate.
In the House, recent elections have brought a decent amount of change – double digit percentages – for the last six elections:
2016 – 13 percent
2014 – 11 percent
2012 – 18 percent
2010 – 22 percent
2008 – 13 percent
2006 – 11 percent
Turnover in the Senate has been slightly lower than in the House, but still significant in each election since 2006:
2016 – 7 percent
2014 – 12 percent
2012 – 12 percent
2010 – 13 percent
2008 – 10 percent
2006 – 11 percent
One of the biggest complaints from voters is that too many lawmakers stay way too long in the Congress:
“Now we need to demand term limits on Congress to get rid of all the old fossils,” one person wrote on Twitter.
But when you look at the data, there aren’t that many fossils around.
If you dig into the seniority numbers for members of the Senate, you will find that 27 Senators have served for more than two terms – 12 years. (Those 27 include 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats).
Twelve years is often the time limit that supporters of term limits envision for the Senate.
As of this week in the House, 136 members have served for more than 12 years – that’s about 31 percent.
While that might sound like a lot, if you look at the other end, 215 members have served for six years or less – nearly fifty percent of the House.
If you check that same time frame in the Senate, 47 Senators – almost half – have been there for six years or less.
That’s a lot of new blood in Congress in recent years.
Speaking of time, this week marks 30 years since I started work on Capitol Hill as a reporter – time does fly.
If you compare my time in the Congress to those who have been elected to the House and Senate, only 10 House members have currently served longer, and just five Senators pre-date my arrival.
So, while I have been able to make it a “career,” not many of those being elected have done the same.
And if you go back to my first job on Capitol Hill in 1980 to establish a little bit more seniority, that list gets pared down to just three members of the House and four Senators who have been around that long.
Time marches on. And term limits or not, the Congress turns over.
That’s true in 2017 with the 115th Congress as well.