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WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => data-driven-insights ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => data-driven-insights [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [posts_per_page] => 10 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6475 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_content] => Congressional term limits have recently gotten the spotlight in campaign promises. “Drain the swamp,” and calls for “new blood” in Congress are popular refrains we’ve heard on the campaign trails. A 2018 survey showed 82 percent of Americans supported implementing term limits for members of Congress. If term limits were passed in Congress, which members of Congress would no longer be allowed to serve? We put together a list of the longest-serving members of Congress as well as historical record holders for longest tenure in office. The members of Congress included in this blog have served for at least 36 years in the House, Senate, or a combination of both. In matters where there was a tie for the amount of time served in Congress, members were sorted first by uninterrupted service, chronological order, senators over representatives, and Senate and House seniority. To provide a comparison to current members of Congress’s tenure length, we also included former members of Congress that hold records for the longest service.

Longest Serving Former and Current Senators

While there have been efforts made by both former President Trump and others in the past to limit the number of terms senators can serve, there are currently no term limits for Congress. Proposed term limits have been proposed to limit service to two consecutive terms, totaling 12 years of service consecutively. These measures, however, have never been enacted into law. The longest-serving senators no longer in office are:
  • Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) — 51 years in office (1959-2010) — As the longest ever serving senator in U.S. history, Byrd certainly left his mark on the chamber. Byrd was renowned for his parliamentary procedure and precedent knowledge and developed several rules and concepts such as pork-barrel spending, and the ever aggrieved Byrd Rule, which requires a ⅗ Senate majority vote to pass a bill.
  • Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) —  49 years in office (1963-2012) — Inouye was the first legislator elected to represent Hawaii after it achieved full statehood in 1959 and was later elected to the Senate in 1962. Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve the House and Senate. A Medal of Honor recipient, Inouye pursued civic service after losing an arm to a battle wound during World War II. Inouye served as Hawaii’s senator up until his death in 2012.
  • Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC 1954-1964, R-SC 1964-2003) — 48 years in office (1954-2003) — A notorious segregationist, Thurmond conducted the longest ever speaking filibuster delivered by a single senator, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond reached the age of 100 while in office in 2003, also giving him the title of the oldest serving senator ever in office. Thurmond was also the longest-serving member of Congress to solely serve in the Senate.
The longest-serving active senators are:
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years — The most senior senator of the majority party in power, Leahy serves as the President pro tempore of the US Senate, presiding over the Senate when the Vice President is absent. This position puts Sen. Leahy third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. He has sponsored 564 bills during his tenure so far, voting with his party 92.0 percent of the time, getting 31.56 percent of his bills out of committee, and 7.62 percent of his sponsored bills enacted. Leahy most frequently cosponsors bills with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) (111 bills), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (103 bills), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (91 bills).
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 41 years — One of the longest-serving senators ever, Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and a member of the Finance, Budget, Agriculture, and Taxation committees. As Judiciary chairman, the conservative Iowan was responsible for confirming the most federal judges ever in a two-year period from 2018-2020, including two Supreme Court justices — reorienting the third branch of government. His legacy also includes passing the First Step Act of 2018, which made the biggest change to federal sentencing laws in a generation. Notorious for his colorful tweets, Grassley summed up his own legacy in 2018 tweeting “To all the ppl who always disagree w my tweets bc I’m a Republican-what do u think of us passing bipartisan criminal justice reform that I’ve worked on for yrs???”
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — 37 years — Leading the Senate Republican caucus for 16 years, McConnell is the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history. McConnell has somehow managed to unite a caucus ranging from centrists to unyielding conservatives. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Since then, he has risen in the ranks to hold many party leadership positions, including Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and now currently Minority Leader of the Senate. He works most frequently on bills that cover Intergovernmental relations (107 bills), Law (97 bills), Crime and Law Enforcement (89 bills), Commerce (85 bills), and Labor and Employment (69 bills). He has sponsored 249 bills in his last thirty-seven year(s) in office, voting with his party 93.0 percent of the time, getting 17.27 percent of his bills out of committee, and 4.42 percent of his sponsored bills enacted.

Longest Serving House Members

The most recent proposed term limit legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN-02) in November 2021, which would limit incoming members of Congress to serve a maximum of three two-year terms consecutively. So far, this joint resolution has garnered 79 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans. If this bill had been passed during these representatives’ tenure, their careers may have been cut short. Here are the longest-serving former representatives:
  • Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) — 59 years in office (1955-2015) — Beginning his career by replacing his father John Dingell Sr. as representative for Michigan’s 16th district in a special election in 1955, and was re-elected 29 times to that seat, running unopposed twice. Upon Dingell’s retirement from office in 2015, he was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) in a special election to fill his seat.
  • Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-MS-01) — 53 years in office (1941-1995) — Throughout his tenure, Whitten served on the Appropriations Committee, chairing it from 1979-1992, and used his time to advocate for agricultural spending. Coined a “New Dealer” for supporting FDR’s New Deal economic policies, Whitten pushed for liberal spending that established free and reduced school lunches and food stamp programs.
  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13) — 52 years in office (1965-2017) — The longest-serving African American in Congress, Conyers co-founded the powerful Congressional Black Caucus in 1969. Conyers’ legacy in the House included establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and getting the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. A leader in civil rights, Conyers represented much of the historically African American community in western Detroit and used his position to advocate for racial equality.
  • Rep. Don Young (R-AK-01) — 48 years (1973-2022) — Don Young passed away on March 18, 2022, ending his 48-year term in office. This section has been updated to reflect on his tenure in office. With the title of longest continuously serving representative, Young served as the Dean of the House of Representatives, a symbolic post who is responsible for swearing in the Speaker of the House at the beginning of a new Congress. Young hailed from Alaska, and sat on the Natural Resources and Transportation committees. He worked most frequently on bills that covered natural resources, transportation, public works, and Native American issues.
The longest-serving representatives who are still currently serving are:
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years — Tied for second most-senior member in the House, Rogers has served his district for 41 years. Rogers’ deal-making harkens back to how Congress used to operate, including his affinity for earmarks, which he used to steer funds back to his rural district before they were banned from 2011-2021 but he is probably thrilled that earmarks are back again!
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years —A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Smith has focused much of his tenure on international human rights. This work culminated in passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000, which provides assistance to trafficking victims and implements harsher punishment for traffickers. Smith works most frequently on bills that cover international affairs, and crime and law enforcement.
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years — As the House majority leader, Hoyer draws on his 40 years in the House to serve as the second-highest-ranking member of the House. His tenure also makes him the most senior Democrat in the House.

13 Longest Serving Active Members of Congress

There are 13 active members of Congress that have the longest tenure of service, some of whom have served only in one chamber and some of whom have served both the Senate and House of Representatives. These are members of Congress actively serving that have the longest combined record of service on anyone currently serving in Congress. *Has served in both the House and Senate
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years 
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 47 years*
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — 45 years*
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) — 43 years* (not seeking reelection)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — 41 years* 
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — 41 years*
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years 
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years 
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years 

Why Does Length of Time Served Matter?

The average age of members of Congress skews older than the average age of most Americans, with the average American being 20 years younger than their representative in Congress. As of 2015, 19 percent of Americans eligible to run for Congress are 65 or older. With Congress meant to reflect the diversity (including age) of the United States population, it’s notable that 40 percent of current senators and 26 percent of representatives are 65 or older. Less than 5 percent of members of Congress are between the ages of 25 and 40, despite the fact that 33 percent of the over-25 population in the U.S. are under 40 years of age. When meeting with a member of Congress, examining their tenure in office and their age help you develop an understanding of what issues may matter to them based on their legislative history and experience. Understanding these factors can better inform your strategy when interacting with members of Congress to achieve your policy goals. A member of Congress that has served for more than 40 years may have immense institutional knowledge but may require more thorough education on your issues depending on their policy areas of expertise. However, with a longer tenure comes a more clear record of how they may react to your issues. Say you’re planning to meet with a representative who has been in office for more than 40 years. Before your meeting, do some research into their legislative and professional experience to better plan your messaging strategy— what legislation have they sponsored in the past? Which committees have they sat on? What was their profession before assuming office? How do they talk about your issues on social media? Use this knowledge base and historical information to guide your conversation to meet members of Congress where they are in their decision-making and education process. [post_title] => Who Are the Longest Serving Members of Congress? [post_excerpt] => Members of Congress often fill many positions during their service, which leads to longer tenures that go beyond the term limits due to position changes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=6475 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 6475 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6475 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_content] => Congressional term limits have recently gotten the spotlight in campaign promises. “Drain the swamp,” and calls for “new blood” in Congress are popular refrains we’ve heard on the campaign trails. A 2018 survey showed 82 percent of Americans supported implementing term limits for members of Congress. If term limits were passed in Congress, which members of Congress would no longer be allowed to serve? We put together a list of the longest-serving members of Congress as well as historical record holders for longest tenure in office. The members of Congress included in this blog have served for at least 36 years in the House, Senate, or a combination of both. In matters where there was a tie for the amount of time served in Congress, members were sorted first by uninterrupted service, chronological order, senators over representatives, and Senate and House seniority. To provide a comparison to current members of Congress’s tenure length, we also included former members of Congress that hold records for the longest service.

Longest Serving Former and Current Senators

While there have been efforts made by both former President Trump and others in the past to limit the number of terms senators can serve, there are currently no term limits for Congress. Proposed term limits have been proposed to limit service to two consecutive terms, totaling 12 years of service consecutively. These measures, however, have never been enacted into law. The longest-serving senators no longer in office are:
  • Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) — 51 years in office (1959-2010) — As the longest ever serving senator in U.S. history, Byrd certainly left his mark on the chamber. Byrd was renowned for his parliamentary procedure and precedent knowledge and developed several rules and concepts such as pork-barrel spending, and the ever aggrieved Byrd Rule, which requires a ⅗ Senate majority vote to pass a bill.
  • Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) —  49 years in office (1963-2012) — Inouye was the first legislator elected to represent Hawaii after it achieved full statehood in 1959 and was later elected to the Senate in 1962. Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve the House and Senate. A Medal of Honor recipient, Inouye pursued civic service after losing an arm to a battle wound during World War II. Inouye served as Hawaii’s senator up until his death in 2012.
  • Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC 1954-1964, R-SC 1964-2003) — 48 years in office (1954-2003) — A notorious segregationist, Thurmond conducted the longest ever speaking filibuster delivered by a single senator, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond reached the age of 100 while in office in 2003, also giving him the title of the oldest serving senator ever in office. Thurmond was also the longest-serving member of Congress to solely serve in the Senate.
The longest-serving active senators are:
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years — The most senior senator of the majority party in power, Leahy serves as the President pro tempore of the US Senate, presiding over the Senate when the Vice President is absent. This position puts Sen. Leahy third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. He has sponsored 564 bills during his tenure so far, voting with his party 92.0 percent of the time, getting 31.56 percent of his bills out of committee, and 7.62 percent of his sponsored bills enacted. Leahy most frequently cosponsors bills with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) (111 bills), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (103 bills), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (91 bills).
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 41 years — One of the longest-serving senators ever, Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and a member of the Finance, Budget, Agriculture, and Taxation committees. As Judiciary chairman, the conservative Iowan was responsible for confirming the most federal judges ever in a two-year period from 2018-2020, including two Supreme Court justices — reorienting the third branch of government. His legacy also includes passing the First Step Act of 2018, which made the biggest change to federal sentencing laws in a generation. Notorious for his colorful tweets, Grassley summed up his own legacy in 2018 tweeting “To all the ppl who always disagree w my tweets bc I’m a Republican-what do u think of us passing bipartisan criminal justice reform that I’ve worked on for yrs???”
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — 37 years — Leading the Senate Republican caucus for 16 years, McConnell is the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history. McConnell has somehow managed to unite a caucus ranging from centrists to unyielding conservatives. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Since then, he has risen in the ranks to hold many party leadership positions, including Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and now currently Minority Leader of the Senate. He works most frequently on bills that cover Intergovernmental relations (107 bills), Law (97 bills), Crime and Law Enforcement (89 bills), Commerce (85 bills), and Labor and Employment (69 bills). He has sponsored 249 bills in his last thirty-seven year(s) in office, voting with his party 93.0 percent of the time, getting 17.27 percent of his bills out of committee, and 4.42 percent of his sponsored bills enacted.

Longest Serving House Members

The most recent proposed term limit legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN-02) in November 2021, which would limit incoming members of Congress to serve a maximum of three two-year terms consecutively. So far, this joint resolution has garnered 79 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans. If this bill had been passed during these representatives’ tenure, their careers may have been cut short. Here are the longest-serving former representatives:
  • Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) — 59 years in office (1955-2015) — Beginning his career by replacing his father John Dingell Sr. as representative for Michigan’s 16th district in a special election in 1955, and was re-elected 29 times to that seat, running unopposed twice. Upon Dingell’s retirement from office in 2015, he was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) in a special election to fill his seat.
  • Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-MS-01) — 53 years in office (1941-1995) — Throughout his tenure, Whitten served on the Appropriations Committee, chairing it from 1979-1992, and used his time to advocate for agricultural spending. Coined a “New Dealer” for supporting FDR’s New Deal economic policies, Whitten pushed for liberal spending that established free and reduced school lunches and food stamp programs.
  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13) — 52 years in office (1965-2017) — The longest-serving African American in Congress, Conyers co-founded the powerful Congressional Black Caucus in 1969. Conyers’ legacy in the House included establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and getting the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. A leader in civil rights, Conyers represented much of the historically African American community in western Detroit and used his position to advocate for racial equality.
  • Rep. Don Young (R-AK-01) — 48 years (1973-2022) — Don Young passed away on March 18, 2022, ending his 48-year term in office. This section has been updated to reflect on his tenure in office. With the title of longest continuously serving representative, Young served as the Dean of the House of Representatives, a symbolic post who is responsible for swearing in the Speaker of the House at the beginning of a new Congress. Young hailed from Alaska, and sat on the Natural Resources and Transportation committees. He worked most frequently on bills that covered natural resources, transportation, public works, and Native American issues.
The longest-serving representatives who are still currently serving are:
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years — Tied for second most-senior member in the House, Rogers has served his district for 41 years. Rogers’ deal-making harkens back to how Congress used to operate, including his affinity for earmarks, which he used to steer funds back to his rural district before they were banned from 2011-2021 but he is probably thrilled that earmarks are back again!
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years —A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Smith has focused much of his tenure on international human rights. This work culminated in passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000, which provides assistance to trafficking victims and implements harsher punishment for traffickers. Smith works most frequently on bills that cover international affairs, and crime and law enforcement.
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years — As the House majority leader, Hoyer draws on his 40 years in the House to serve as the second-highest-ranking member of the House. His tenure also makes him the most senior Democrat in the House.

13 Longest Serving Active Members of Congress

There are 13 active members of Congress that have the longest tenure of service, some of whom have served only in one chamber and some of whom have served both the Senate and House of Representatives. These are members of Congress actively serving that have the longest combined record of service on anyone currently serving in Congress. *Has served in both the House and Senate
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years 
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 47 years*
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — 45 years*
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) — 43 years* (not seeking reelection)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — 41 years* 
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — 41 years*
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years 
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years 
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years 

Why Does Length of Time Served Matter?

The average age of members of Congress skews older than the average age of most Americans, with the average American being 20 years younger than their representative in Congress. As of 2015, 19 percent of Americans eligible to run for Congress are 65 or older. With Congress meant to reflect the diversity (including age) of the United States population, it’s notable that 40 percent of current senators and 26 percent of representatives are 65 or older. Less than 5 percent of members of Congress are between the ages of 25 and 40, despite the fact that 33 percent of the over-25 population in the U.S. are under 40 years of age. When meeting with a member of Congress, examining their tenure in office and their age help you develop an understanding of what issues may matter to them based on their legislative history and experience. Understanding these factors can better inform your strategy when interacting with members of Congress to achieve your policy goals. A member of Congress that has served for more than 40 years may have immense institutional knowledge but may require more thorough education on your issues depending on their policy areas of expertise. However, with a longer tenure comes a more clear record of how they may react to your issues. Say you’re planning to meet with a representative who has been in office for more than 40 years. Before your meeting, do some research into their legislative and professional experience to better plan your messaging strategy— what legislation have they sponsored in the past? Which committees have they sat on? What was their profession before assuming office? How do they talk about your issues on social media? Use this knowledge base and historical information to guide your conversation to meet members of Congress where they are in their decision-making and education process. [post_title] => Who Are the Longest Serving Members of Congress? [post_excerpt] => Members of Congress often fill many positions during their service, which leads to longer tenures that go beyond the term limits due to position changes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=6475 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6475 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-03-07 22:30:01 [post_content] => Congressional term limits have recently gotten the spotlight in campaign promises. “Drain the swamp,” and calls for “new blood” in Congress are popular refrains we’ve heard on the campaign trails. A 2018 survey showed 82 percent of Americans supported implementing term limits for members of Congress. If term limits were passed in Congress, which members of Congress would no longer be allowed to serve? We put together a list of the longest-serving members of Congress as well as historical record holders for longest tenure in office. The members of Congress included in this blog have served for at least 36 years in the House, Senate, or a combination of both. In matters where there was a tie for the amount of time served in Congress, members were sorted first by uninterrupted service, chronological order, senators over representatives, and Senate and House seniority. To provide a comparison to current members of Congress’s tenure length, we also included former members of Congress that hold records for the longest service.

Longest Serving Former and Current Senators

While there have been efforts made by both former President Trump and others in the past to limit the number of terms senators can serve, there are currently no term limits for Congress. Proposed term limits have been proposed to limit service to two consecutive terms, totaling 12 years of service consecutively. These measures, however, have never been enacted into law. The longest-serving senators no longer in office are:
  • Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) — 51 years in office (1959-2010) — As the longest ever serving senator in U.S. history, Byrd certainly left his mark on the chamber. Byrd was renowned for his parliamentary procedure and precedent knowledge and developed several rules and concepts such as pork-barrel spending, and the ever aggrieved Byrd Rule, which requires a ⅗ Senate majority vote to pass a bill.
  • Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) —  49 years in office (1963-2012) — Inouye was the first legislator elected to represent Hawaii after it achieved full statehood in 1959 and was later elected to the Senate in 1962. Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve the House and Senate. A Medal of Honor recipient, Inouye pursued civic service after losing an arm to a battle wound during World War II. Inouye served as Hawaii’s senator up until his death in 2012.
  • Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC 1954-1964, R-SC 1964-2003) — 48 years in office (1954-2003) — A notorious segregationist, Thurmond conducted the longest ever speaking filibuster delivered by a single senator, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond reached the age of 100 while in office in 2003, also giving him the title of the oldest serving senator ever in office. Thurmond was also the longest-serving member of Congress to solely serve in the Senate.
The longest-serving active senators are:
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years — The most senior senator of the majority party in power, Leahy serves as the President pro tempore of the US Senate, presiding over the Senate when the Vice President is absent. This position puts Sen. Leahy third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. He has sponsored 564 bills during his tenure so far, voting with his party 92.0 percent of the time, getting 31.56 percent of his bills out of committee, and 7.62 percent of his sponsored bills enacted. Leahy most frequently cosponsors bills with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) (111 bills), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (103 bills), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (91 bills).
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 41 years — One of the longest-serving senators ever, Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and a member of the Finance, Budget, Agriculture, and Taxation committees. As Judiciary chairman, the conservative Iowan was responsible for confirming the most federal judges ever in a two-year period from 2018-2020, including two Supreme Court justices — reorienting the third branch of government. His legacy also includes passing the First Step Act of 2018, which made the biggest change to federal sentencing laws in a generation. Notorious for his colorful tweets, Grassley summed up his own legacy in 2018 tweeting “To all the ppl who always disagree w my tweets bc I’m a Republican-what do u think of us passing bipartisan criminal justice reform that I’ve worked on for yrs???”
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — 37 years — Leading the Senate Republican caucus for 16 years, McConnell is the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history. McConnell has somehow managed to unite a caucus ranging from centrists to unyielding conservatives. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Since then, he has risen in the ranks to hold many party leadership positions, including Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and now currently Minority Leader of the Senate. He works most frequently on bills that cover Intergovernmental relations (107 bills), Law (97 bills), Crime and Law Enforcement (89 bills), Commerce (85 bills), and Labor and Employment (69 bills). He has sponsored 249 bills in his last thirty-seven year(s) in office, voting with his party 93.0 percent of the time, getting 17.27 percent of his bills out of committee, and 4.42 percent of his sponsored bills enacted.

Longest Serving House Members

The most recent proposed term limit legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN-02) in November 2021, which would limit incoming members of Congress to serve a maximum of three two-year terms consecutively. So far, this joint resolution has garnered 79 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans. If this bill had been passed during these representatives’ tenure, their careers may have been cut short. Here are the longest-serving former representatives:
  • Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) — 59 years in office (1955-2015) — Beginning his career by replacing his father John Dingell Sr. as representative for Michigan’s 16th district in a special election in 1955, and was re-elected 29 times to that seat, running unopposed twice. Upon Dingell’s retirement from office in 2015, he was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) in a special election to fill his seat.
  • Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-MS-01) — 53 years in office (1941-1995) — Throughout his tenure, Whitten served on the Appropriations Committee, chairing it from 1979-1992, and used his time to advocate for agricultural spending. Coined a “New Dealer” for supporting FDR’s New Deal economic policies, Whitten pushed for liberal spending that established free and reduced school lunches and food stamp programs.
  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13) — 52 years in office (1965-2017) — The longest-serving African American in Congress, Conyers co-founded the powerful Congressional Black Caucus in 1969. Conyers’ legacy in the House included establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and getting the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. A leader in civil rights, Conyers represented much of the historically African American community in western Detroit and used his position to advocate for racial equality.
  • Rep. Don Young (R-AK-01) — 48 years (1973-2022) — Don Young passed away on March 18, 2022, ending his 48-year term in office. This section has been updated to reflect on his tenure in office. With the title of longest continuously serving representative, Young served as the Dean of the House of Representatives, a symbolic post who is responsible for swearing in the Speaker of the House at the beginning of a new Congress. Young hailed from Alaska, and sat on the Natural Resources and Transportation committees. He worked most frequently on bills that covered natural resources, transportation, public works, and Native American issues.
The longest-serving representatives who are still currently serving are:
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years — Tied for second most-senior member in the House, Rogers has served his district for 41 years. Rogers’ deal-making harkens back to how Congress used to operate, including his affinity for earmarks, which he used to steer funds back to his rural district before they were banned from 2011-2021 but he is probably thrilled that earmarks are back again!
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years —A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Smith has focused much of his tenure on international human rights. This work culminated in passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000, which provides assistance to trafficking victims and implements harsher punishment for traffickers. Smith works most frequently on bills that cover international affairs, and crime and law enforcement.
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years — As the House majority leader, Hoyer draws on his 40 years in the House to serve as the second-highest-ranking member of the House. His tenure also makes him the most senior Democrat in the House.

13 Longest Serving Active Members of Congress

There are 13 active members of Congress that have the longest tenure of service, some of whom have served only in one chamber and some of whom have served both the Senate and House of Representatives. These are members of Congress actively serving that have the longest combined record of service on anyone currently serving in Congress. *Has served in both the House and Senate
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years 
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 47 years*
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — 45 years*
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) — 43 years* (not seeking reelection)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — 41 years* 
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — 41 years*
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years 
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years 
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years 

Why Does Length of Time Served Matter?

The average age of members of Congress skews older than the average age of most Americans, with the average American being 20 years younger than their representative in Congress. As of 2015, 19 percent of Americans eligible to run for Congress are 65 or older. With Congress meant to reflect the diversity (including age) of the United States population, it’s notable that 40 percent of current senators and 26 percent of representatives are 65 or older. Less than 5 percent of members of Congress are between the ages of 25 and 40, despite the fact that 33 percent of the over-25 population in the U.S. are under 40 years of age. When meeting with a member of Congress, examining their tenure in office and their age help you develop an understanding of what issues may matter to them based on their legislative history and experience. Understanding these factors can better inform your strategy when interacting with members of Congress to achieve your policy goals. A member of Congress that has served for more than 40 years may have immense institutional knowledge but may require more thorough education on your issues depending on their policy areas of expertise. However, with a longer tenure comes a more clear record of how they may react to your issues. Say you’re planning to meet with a representative who has been in office for more than 40 years. Before your meeting, do some research into their legislative and professional experience to better plan your messaging strategy— what legislation have they sponsored in the past? Which committees have they sat on? What was their profession before assuming office? How do they talk about your issues on social media? Use this knowledge base and historical information to guide your conversation to meet members of Congress where they are in their decision-making and education process. [post_title] => Who Are the Longest Serving Members of Congress? [post_excerpt] => Members of Congress often fill many positions during their service, which leads to longer tenures that go beyond the term limits due to position changes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => who-are-the-longest-serving-members-of-congress [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-14 15:40:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=6475 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 26702d86507baf972480ce2b18cd7fe9 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Data Driven Insights

Who Are the Longest Serving Members of Congress?

Who Are the Longest Serving Members of Congress?

Congressional term limits have recently gotten the spotlight in campaign promises. “Drain the swamp,” and calls for “new blood” in Congress are popular refrains we’ve heard on the campaign trails. A 2018 survey showed 82 percent of Americans supported implementing term limits for members of Congress. If term limits were passed in Congress, which members of Congress would no longer be allowed to serve? We put together a list of the longest-serving members of Congress as well as historical record holders for longest tenure in office.

The members of Congress included in this blog have served for at least 36 years in the House, Senate, or a combination of both. In matters where there was a tie for the amount of time served in Congress, members were sorted first by uninterrupted service, chronological order, senators over representatives, and Senate and House seniority. To provide a comparison to current members of Congress’s tenure length, we also included former members of Congress that hold records for the longest service.

Longest Serving Former and Current Senators

While there have been efforts made by both former President Trump and others in the past to limit the number of terms senators can serve, there are currently no term limits for Congress. Proposed term limits have been proposed to limit service to two consecutive terms, totaling 12 years of service consecutively. These measures, however, have never been enacted into law.

The longest-serving senators no longer in office are:

  • Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) — 51 years in office (1959-2010) — As the longest ever serving senator in U.S. history, Byrd certainly left his mark on the chamber. Byrd was renowned for his parliamentary procedure and precedent knowledge and developed several rules and concepts such as pork-barrel spending, and the ever aggrieved Byrd Rule, which requires a ⅗ Senate majority vote to pass a bill.
  • Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) —  49 years in office (1963-2012) — Inouye was the first legislator elected to represent Hawaii after it achieved full statehood in 1959 and was later elected to the Senate in 1962. Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve the House and Senate. A Medal of Honor recipient, Inouye pursued civic service after losing an arm to a battle wound during World War II. Inouye served as Hawaii’s senator up until his death in 2012.
  • Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC 1954-1964, R-SC 1964-2003) — 48 years in office (1954-2003) — A notorious segregationist, Thurmond conducted the longest ever speaking filibuster delivered by a single senator, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond reached the age of 100 while in office in 2003, also giving him the title of the oldest serving senator ever in office. Thurmond was also the longest-serving member of Congress to solely serve in the Senate.

The longest-serving active senators are:

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years — The most senior senator of the majority party in power, Leahy serves as the President pro tempore of the US Senate, presiding over the Senate when the Vice President is absent. This position puts Sen. Leahy third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. He has sponsored 564 bills during his tenure so far, voting with his party 92.0 percent of the time, getting 31.56 percent of his bills out of committee, and 7.62 percent of his sponsored bills enacted. Leahy most frequently cosponsors bills with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) (111 bills), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (103 bills), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (91 bills).
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 41 years — One of the longest-serving senators ever, Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and a member of the Finance, Budget, Agriculture, and Taxation committees. As Judiciary chairman, the conservative Iowan was responsible for confirming the most federal judges ever in a two-year period from 2018-2020, including two Supreme Court justices — reorienting the third branch of government. His legacy also includes passing the First Step Act of 2018, which made the biggest change to federal sentencing laws in a generation. Notorious for his colorful tweets, Grassley summed up his own legacy in 2018 tweeting “To all the ppl who always disagree w my tweets bc I’m a Republican-what do u think of us passing bipartisan criminal justice reform that I’ve worked on for yrs???”
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — 37 years — Leading the Senate Republican caucus for 16 years, McConnell is the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history. McConnell has somehow managed to unite a caucus ranging from centrists to unyielding conservatives. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Since then, he has risen in the ranks to hold many party leadership positions, including Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and now currently Minority Leader of the Senate. He works most frequently on bills that cover Intergovernmental relations (107 bills), Law (97 bills), Crime and Law Enforcement (89 bills), Commerce (85 bills), and Labor and Employment (69 bills). He has sponsored 249 bills in his last thirty-seven year(s) in office, voting with his party 93.0 percent of the time, getting 17.27 percent of his bills out of committee, and 4.42 percent of his sponsored bills enacted.

Longest Serving House Members

The most recent proposed term limit legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN-02) in November 2021, which would limit incoming members of Congress to serve a maximum of three two-year terms consecutively. So far, this joint resolution has garnered 79 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.

If this bill had been passed during these representatives’ tenure, their careers may have been cut short. Here are the longest-serving former representatives:

  • Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) — 59 years in office (1955-2015) — Beginning his career by replacing his father John Dingell Sr. as representative for Michigan’s 16th district in a special election in 1955, and was re-elected 29 times to that seat, running unopposed twice. Upon Dingell’s retirement from office in 2015, he was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) in a special election to fill his seat.
  • Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-MS-01) — 53 years in office (1941-1995) — Throughout his tenure, Whitten served on the Appropriations Committee, chairing it from 1979-1992, and used his time to advocate for agricultural spending. Coined a “New Dealer” for supporting FDR’s New Deal economic policies, Whitten pushed for liberal spending that established free and reduced school lunches and food stamp programs.
  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13) — 52 years in office (1965-2017) — The longest-serving African American in Congress, Conyers co-founded the powerful Congressional Black Caucus in 1969. Conyers’ legacy in the House included establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and getting the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. A leader in civil rights, Conyers represented much of the historically African American community in western Detroit and used his position to advocate for racial equality.
  • Rep. Don Young (R-AK-01) — 48 years (1973-2022) — Don Young passed away on March 18, 2022, ending his 48-year term in office. This section has been updated to reflect on his tenure in office. With the title of longest continuously serving representative, Young served as the Dean of the House of Representatives, a symbolic post who is responsible for swearing in the Speaker of the House at the beginning of a new Congress. Young hailed from Alaska, and sat on the Natural Resources and Transportation committees. He worked most frequently on bills that covered natural resources, transportation, public works, and Native American issues.

The longest-serving representatives who are still currently serving are:

  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years — Tied for second most-senior member in the House, Rogers has served his district for 41 years. Rogers’ deal-making harkens back to how Congress used to operate, including his affinity for earmarks, which he used to steer funds back to his rural district before they were banned from 2011-2021 but he is probably thrilled that earmarks are back again!
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years —A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Smith has focused much of his tenure on international human rights. This work culminated in passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000, which provides assistance to trafficking victims and implements harsher punishment for traffickers. Smith works most frequently on bills that cover international affairs, and crime and law enforcement.
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years — As the House majority leader, Hoyer draws on his 40 years in the House to serve as the second-highest-ranking member of the House. His tenure also makes him the most senior Democrat in the House.

13 Longest Serving Active Members of Congress

There are 13 active members of Congress that have the longest tenure of service, some of whom have served only in one chamber and some of whom have served both the Senate and House of Representatives. These are members of Congress actively serving that have the longest combined record of service on anyone currently serving in Congress.

*Has served in both the House and Senate

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — 47 years 
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — 47 years*
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — 45 years*
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) — 43 years* (not seeking reelection)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — 41 years* 
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — 41 years*
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) — 41 years 
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) — 41 years 
  • Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) — 40 years 

Why Does Length of Time Served Matter?

The average age of members of Congress skews older than the average age of most Americans, with the average American being 20 years younger than their representative in Congress. As of 2015, 19 percent of Americans eligible to run for Congress are 65 or older. With Congress meant to reflect the diversity (including age) of the United States population, it’s notable that 40 percent of current senators and 26 percent of representatives are 65 or older. Less than 5 percent of members of Congress are between the ages of 25 and 40, despite the fact that 33 percent of the over-25 population in the U.S. are under 40 years of age.


When meeting with a member of Congress, examining their tenure in office and their age help you develop an understanding of what issues may matter to them based on their legislative history and experience. Understanding these factors can better inform your strategy when interacting with members of Congress to achieve your policy goals.

A member of Congress that has served for more than 40 years may have immense institutional knowledge but may require more thorough education on your issues depending on their policy areas of expertise. However, with a longer tenure comes a more clear record of how they may react to your issues.

Say you’re planning to meet with a representative who has been in office for more than 40 years. Before your meeting, do some research into their legislative and professional experience to better plan your messaging strategy— what legislation have they sponsored in the past? Which committees have they sat on? What was their profession before assuming office? How do they talk about your issues on social media? Use this knowledge base and historical information to guide your conversation to meet members of Congress where they are in their decision-making and education process.

Legislative tracking software like Quorum makes it easier for your team to effectively understand what legislation, regulations, and conversations are happening on Capitol Hill.