Reed + Whitehouse well-positioned to gain Senate seniority

Feb 19, 2013

With a wave of departures in the US Senate, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are positioned to expand their seniority -- a potent coin of the realm in Congress.

Aaron Blake reports at The Fix on the turnover:

Currently, 24 senators have called it quits between 2010 and today — just three less than the previous high of 27 retirements between 1992 and 1996.

The most likely additional retirees would seem to be Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). And as with Johanns, there are always a few surprise retirements along the way.

Reed, 63, already ranks as the 22nd most senior of 100 senators, according to Roll Call. Up for re-election for a fourth term this November -- with a kick-off fundraiser Sunday evening at the Providence Biltmore -- Reed holds what is considered one of the most secure Senate seats in the nation.

Whitehouse, 57, a relative Senate newcomer who joined the chamber by unseating Lincoln Chafee in 2006, is nonetheless 53rd in Senate seniority by Roll Call's count. The Democrat had an easy re-election last year, cruising past Republican Barry Hinckley, and could hold his seat for years to come.

Rhode Islanders have shown a willingness to keep senators in office for many years: John Chafee served 23 years by the time of his death in 1999. Theodore Francis Green (24 years) and John O. Pastore (26 years) trail behind the 36-year tenure of Claiborne Pell.

Although Rhode Island might lose a US House seat by 2022 due to shrinking population, the state appears poised to continue building its influence in the Senate.