The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe has an item at the end of an online column today noting some senators who have been around a long, long, really long time:
First, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), expects to cast her 5,000th consecutive vote this week. She has never missed a vote since taking office in January 1997, and her record — if she reaches it — would place her second to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) among current senators. Grassley has cast 6,444 consecutive votes dating to 1993. But Collins and Grassley rank far behind former senator William D. Proxmire (D-Wis.), who cast 10,252 consecutive votes between 1966 and 1988.
In another impressive feat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), is 12 votes shy of casting his 14,000th vote. Among current senators, Leahy’s vote total ranks second to that of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who has cast more than 16,000 votes since 1963. The all-time Senate record-holder is the late Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who showed up for 18,689 votes during his five decades in the chamber.
Leahy is poised to join an elite list of 14,000-plus voters that includes only Inouye, Byrd, former senators Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and the late Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
O’Keefe calls these “impressive milestones.” From a totally objective perspective, that is true. But it also goes a long way towards explaining why the Senate such a slow, hidebound institution. Did the founders really intend for it to be a lifetime tenured position for a small, elite group of politicians? Shouldn’t fresh blood be injected more often? Term limits anyone?