Tag Archives: u.s. senate

Progressive coalition urges senators to oppose DeVos for education secretary

Nearly 250 civil rights and education groups signed a letter opposing the nomination of Michigan millionaire Betsy DeVos to be the U.S. secretary of education and urging the U.S. Senate to reject her nomination.

“Betsy DeVos’ deference to state flexibility, even with regard to compliance with federal civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, her claim that demonstrating support for Title IX enforcement guidance would be ‘premature’ and her lack of support for accountability for all schools receiving federal funds only serve to reinforce our conclusion that her inadequate previous experience and missing record of support for students’ civil rights make her unfit to serve as Secretary of Education,” the letter states.

The groups’ opposition is rooted in concern about DeVos’ failure to demonstrate a commitment to the enforcement of the nation’s federal civil rights and education laws.

The U.S. Department of Education’s critical role as the primary federal agency protecting students’ civil rights is particularly important as it continues to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act, a law intended to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students.

“The Secretary of Education should be committed to policies and practices that make schools safe and welcoming for all children who spend most of every day there. Betsy DeVos has failed to demonstrate that she is qualified to do that job or that she understands what the job requires,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which spearheaded the letter. “America’s students deserve better.”

A vote on the Senate education committee is expected Tuesday.

Meet California’s new US senator, Kamala Harris

Kamala Devi Harris is the first Indian woman elected to a U.S. Senate seat and the second black woman, following Carol Moseley Braun, who served a single term after being elected in 1992.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica gives national Democrats a new face with an appealing resume — a career prosecutor and attorney general in the nation’s most populous state — and a lineage that fits squarely with the party’s goal to mirror a changing country.

By 2050, minorities are projected to be the majority in the U.S., as they are in California, and women are a majority in every state. Harris, who takes a seat in a Senate that remains overwhelmingly white and male, defeated another Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in Tuesday’s election.

“Harris will help make the Senate look more like America,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Slowly, the Senate will catch up with the nation’s demographics, and Harris proves the point.”

She has drawn comparisons to her friend, President Barack Obama, another lawyer and racial groundbreaker.

Her sister, Maya Harris, was a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Our diversity is our power,” Harris told fellow Democrats last year.

In picking the 52-year-old Harris to replace retiring Barbara Boxer, voters also looked to a new generation for leadership.

Boxer, who served four terms after being first elected in 1992, will turn 76 this week. California’ senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, is 83. Hillary Clinton will turn 70 next year.

In Harris, Californians are getting a liberal Democrat much in the mold of the senator they are replacing. It’s telling that her first major endorsement came from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing.

Along with her law-and-order credentials, Harris supports gay rights, reproductive rights and the $15 minimum wage. She want to do more to fight climate change and supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship for people who entered the U.S. illegally.

Born in Oakland, California, Harris calls Thurgood Marshall an inspiration and talks often about growing up with parents deeply involved in the civil rights movement. She married Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Emhoff two years ago, her first marriage.

Her economist father and cancer specialist mother met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, where Harris recalls they “spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice.” They later divorced.

She comes to the Senate after twice being elected state attorney general. As a candidate she stressed her fights with big banks during the mortgage crisis, for-profit colleges that were financially exploiting students and environmental wrongdoers.

A central theme for years has been recidivism and criminal justice reform, where she has advocated for a different approach to non-violent crimes that emphasizes rehabilitation and help getting back on track, not severe, one-size-fits-all punishment. She calls it smart on crime.

Harris emerged from the election largely unscathed after facing Sanchez, who suffered from a string of verbal gaffes and saw the party establishment line up behind Harris. Harris never trailed in polling or fundraising.

She was able to overcome a deficit of experience in foreign affairs _ rival Sanchez called her unready for the job _ while fending off criticism about rising crime rates and that she is too often cautious when faced with politically dicey subjects.

Sanchez and some other Democrats, for example, said she was not aggressive enough on prosecutions and investigations related to fatal shootings by police.

At an NAACP convention in Sacramento in October, Harris was describing the steps the state has taken to deter police bias when Jay King jumped to his feet and stalked out of the room.

“Police are killing us,” he shouted. “I can’t listen to this.”

King, a singer and volunteer host on a Sacramento radio station, said afterward that he previously voted for Harris and contributed to her campaign. But he criticized Harris and Obama for not doing more.

Harris took the interruption in stride.

“People are shouting in a room or on the streets because they feel they’re not being heard,” she said later. “We have to give voice to that.”

Thinly tested on the national stage, the next question will be can she deliver in a Congress riven by partisanship.

A glance at her website provides a snapshot of her goals, including free tuition at community colleges and increasing rainwater storage capacity in drought-plagued California.

In a state where millions struggle in poverty, where extremes of wealth and destitution can be witnessed by walking a few blocks in downtown Los Angeles, Harris talks about rebuilding the “ladder of opportunity” for those left behind.

“I wanted to do the work that was about being a voice for the vulnerable,” she has said.

Feingold, Johnson US Senate rematch heads to finish

Six years ago Ron Johnson came out of nowhere to beat three-term U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a Republican victory that chipped away at the Democratic majority before the GOP took control in 2014.

Now Democrats are looking to Wisconsin, and Feingold yet again, in the hopes that a rematch victory will help them regain the majority.

Democrats, and Feingold, have reasons to be confident. Polls have consistently shown Feingold ahead in the race and Republicans traditionally fare worse in Wisconsin in presidential years because turnout favors Democrats.

But in a year when Donald Trump’s presidential run has shaken up expectations, Johnson’s team argues against reading too much into the data. They insist the race is heading in their direction in the final days, saying their voter outreach effort will be part of the difference maker on Election Day.

“No one will outhustle Ron and this team,” his campaign manager said in a memo to supporters on Oct. 23. “Ron’s been underestimated before, and smart observers would be wise not to do so again.”

But Feingold was all smiles and brimming with confidence when he cast his ballot just over two weeks before the election, saying that Johnson’s decision to label him as a “phony” showed the incumbent was becoming desperate.

In an Associated Press interview, Feingold said his pitch to undecided voters is that he’s on the side of middle income and working families on the key issues.

“It’s real clear I’m the candidate who’s likely to vote with middle income working families, on everything from minimum wage to family leave to prescription medicine to student loans,” Feingold said.

Johnson argues that Feingold is an out-of-touch “career politician” who wants nothing more than to return to Washington where he served as a senator for 18 years.

“Every type of plan that Senator Feingold has is going to grow government and when we grow government, just like night follows day, government’s going to demand more of your hard-earned money, going to take more of your freedom,” Johnson told AP. “I actually want to limit government to those enumerated powers and I want to make sure that Wisconsinites keep more of their heard-earned money.”

Johnson has emphasized his experience creating jobs and building the Oshkosh plastics manufacturing company Pacur before winning election to the Senate, saying that real-life experience sets him apart from Feingold. Johnson said in one of the debates that “I am the working man.”

Feingold has tried to turn Johnson’s business background against him, painting him as an out-of-touch millionaire who accepted $10 million in deferred compensation before leaving the company to join the Senate.

Both Johnson and Feingold are battling the tides of history.

Due in part to the larger Democratic turnout, no Republican has been elected senator in Wisconsin in a presidential year since 1980.

But just as daunting for Feingold, no former senator has won a rematch against the person who defeated them since 1934.

And former senators have only won election to return to the Senate twice in the past 60 years.

Millions of dollars in advertising, both from the candidates and outside groups, has poured into the state. Political action committees have spent six times as much to help Johnson over Feingold: $8.9 million to $1.4 million, based on a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The two candidates combined have spent more than $28 million on the race.

The presidential race has loomed large.

Feingold repeatedly called on Johnson to join other Republicans in revoking his support for Trump. Johnson refused. Likewise, Feingold has stood by his description of Hillary Clinton as “honest and trustworthy,” even though Wisconsin polls have consistently shown voters don’t see her that way.

But Feingold has also emphasized his independence, sticking by his vote against the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was the only senator to oppose it.

“I didn’t do what the Democrats wanted me to do on it or Republicans,” Feingold said. “I did what Wisconsinites want, to do your job and actually look at the legislation and decide whether it could be better and it definitely needed to be improved.”

Johnson has pledged not to seek a third term should he win.

“I will be the calmest guy on my election night because I win either way,” Johnson said in a line often used throughout the campaign and repeated in a radio interview two weeks before the election. “I either go back to my life that I love that I miss, or I can fight again and go back to Washington.”

Libertarian Phil Anderson is also on the ballot.

Johnson, Feingold prepare for 1st debate in tightening race

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold are preparing to meet for the first of two televised debates in their tightening race.

They’ve been here before, six years ago, when Feingold was the more experienced, polished politician and Johnson a underdog newcomer. This year, Johnson enters Friday’s debate in Green Bay — just 25 days before the election — as the incumbent.

Even so, the underlying dynamic remains the same, said Republican strategist Mark Graul, who helped Johnson prepare in 2010 and again is lending his advice. What’s he telling Johnson?

“To be himself,” Graul said. “Ron Johnson is famously not a politician. He’s not the guy who’s going to go up there and deliver the canned one-liners and sound bites.”

Still, there’s more pressure on Johnson to shake up the race, given he’s trailing in polls, said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster from Madison. Feingold — who’s been in politics for 34 years, 28 in elected office — should stay the course, not do anything too dramatic, and “keep on keepin’ on,” Maslin said.

The presidential race has cast a long shadow over the race, as Johnson has long been seen as vulnerable due to the state generally skewing Democratic in presidential years. But he was buoyed by a Marquette University Law School poll released this week showing the race as nearly even.

He’s also become increasingly aggressive on the campaign trail, sticking by Donald Trump in the wake of sexual assault allegations and challenging Feingold to defend backing of Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Feingold has been careful not to break ties with the more liberal wing of the party, appearing at recent rallies with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Johnson expects Feingold to try to use his support for Trump against him in the debate, which he says he’ll counter by comparing Feingold’s “lack of having a record of accomplishment” with his own record in the Senate.

Johnson’s Senate office released a report this week highlighting his work as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noting bills passed on issues like border and immigration security and reducing federal regulations.

Feingold’s signature legislation in the Senate was co-sponsoring with Republican Sen. John McCain a campaign finance overhaul. He also was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which was enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and opposed President Barack Obama’s decision to expand the war in Afghanistan.

He was a vocal supporter of Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Johnson has been preparing for Friday’s showdown by going over tapes from 2010’s three debates.

Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said he’s been “listening to the needs of middle-income and working families” in advance of the debate.

The two will take questions from a panel of journalists during the hour-long debate, which is sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and will be broadcast widely across the state as well as on C-SPAN.

Feingold and Johnson’s second and only other planned debate is Tuesday in Milwaukee. That 90-minute debate will be hosted by WISN-TV and the Marquette University Law School and moderated by Mike Gousha, a veteran broadcast political journalist.

Johnson, Feingold set to debate Oct. 14

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and his Democratic challenger Russ Feingold are scheduled to debate Oct. 14.

The debate was announced this week by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation.

The hour-long debate on a Friday night just over three weeks before the Nov. 8 general election will be somewhere in the Green Bay-Appleton market, but the exact location was not announced.

This is the first announced debate of the campaign between Johnson and Feingold this cycle.

It marks the first time the two have debated since their first contest in 2010.

Johnson won that year, ending Feingold’s bid for a fourth term.

Also this week, a spokesman for Feingold said Johnson should withdraw his support of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The push comes after Trump disparaged the bereaved parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim who was awarded a Bronze Star after he was killed in 2004 in Iraq.

Feingold spokesman Michel Tyler said that “our Gold Star families should be honored, not slandered again and again by Donald Trump.”

Tyler said “enough is enough” and Johnson should denounce Trump and withdraw support.

Johnson issued a statement on the issue but he did not mention Trump by name.

Johnson said Khan and all “Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.”

Trump is set to campaign in Wisconsin later this week.

See also: Wisconsin veterans denounce Trump’s attacks on Gold Star family

Johnson campaign loses $2.2 million in ads from Koch PAC

A conservative group funded by the Koch brothers that is backing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson canceled $2.2 million worth of ads it had planned to run to help the Republican in August and September.

Johnson is in a rematch with Democrat Russ Feingold.

Feingold has been outraising Johnson and leading in the polls in the closely watched race.

Democrats are hoping to pick up the Senate seat as they try to regain majority control in the Senate.

The super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund ran about $2 million worth of ads attacking Feingold in May.

The PAC was slated to run another $2.2 million in pro-Johnson ads over the next two months, but a Democratic media tracker said that they had been canceled.

“We are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races,” Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis wrote in an email. “We will continue direct citizen outreach through our grassroots activists, volunteer phone calls, digital media and direct mail. Last weekend alone network grassroots organizations made almost half a million contact attempts to targeted audiences.”

The news for Johnson came a day after he spoke in prime time at the Republican National Convention, a late-reversal from his long-held position that he was going to skip the gathering to campaign in Wisconsin.

It also came day after the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it was delaying until October $1.3 million in ads it originally planned to run over the next two months.

Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger tried to downplay the effect of the ad cancellation by the group funded by influential billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch.

“We just had our strongest fundraising quarter ever and the polls show this race tight,” Reisinger said. “We are comfortable and confident and believe we have the support to run a winning campaign. The voters already fired Sen. Feingold once, and they will reject him again.”

In the three-month period ending in June, Johnson raised $2.8 million, up from $2.1 million in the first three months. That put him in the top three of all Senate Republicans.

But he still trails Feingold, who served 18 years in the Senate before Johnson defeated him in 2010.

Through the first six months of the year, Feingold raised about $7.4 million, compared with $4.9 million for Johnson. Feingold also had more money on hand at the end of June — $7.2 million compared with $6.3 million for Johnson.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed Feingold ahead of Johnson by 5 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters.

The race has tightened considerably since January, when Feingold was up by 12 points over Johnson among registered voters.

Johnson has benefited from spending by outside groups, which had outspent Feingold’s campaign by about $5 million to $1 million from the April 5 primary through late June.

In addition to Freedom Partners, the ads benefiting Johnson have come from Americans for Prosperity, another Koch brothers group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Let America Work and the Judicial Crisis Network.

“Sen. Johnson has always relied on the Koch Brothers and these outside groups to run his campaign for him, so this must come as a disappointment for their model legislator,” said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler in an emailed statement.

Democrats working to expand U.S. Senate map into red states

Following a recruiting success in Indiana, Democrats are eyeing Kansas as they try to expand their playing field into red states and take back the Senate.

GOP Sen. Jerry Moran is up for re-election in Kansas, Republican-friendly territory that’s on few lists of competitive races this year. Thus far his opponents are little-known, but Democrats are considering a Kansas businessman, Greg Orman, who ran for Senate two years ago as an independent, to see if he might make another try this year, according to one Democratic official with knowledge of the deliberations.

Orman challenged longtime GOP Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014 and ran a more competitive race than expected, although Roberts ultimately won. Orman could get on the ballot as an independent by filing petition signatures by Aug. 2.

Orman did not return phone and email messages seeking comment. The Democrat who discussed his potential candidacy did so on condition of anonymity ahead of an official decision.

The focus on Kansas follows developments in Indiana, where Democrats were applauding news that former Sen. Evan Bayh is looking to make a comeback.

Bayh’s candidacy would instantly create a competitive race in Indiana, where incumbent GOP Sen. Dan Coats is retiring and the Republican candidate to replace him, Rep. Todd Young, can’t match Bayh’s name ID or fundraising.

The developments in both states stand as the latest examples of Democratic attempts to mount competitive races on Republican-friendly terrain, as they try to capitalize on turmoil around Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

“It’s going to be good for the country, good for Indiana to have him back,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Monday of Bayh, adding that Trump “speaks for the Republicans” and creates opportunities for Democrats to compete around the country.

Top tier, 2nd tier, 3rd tier

In addition to top-tier races in politically divided or Democratic-friendly states including Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, Democrats have been promoting a second and third tier of Senate candidates in GOP-leaning states including Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa. None is favored to win, but all give Republicans something they need to pay attention to in a year when Democrats are on offense nationwide.

Democrats need to net four or five seats to win back Senate control — four if they hang onto the White House and can send the vice president to break ties in the Senate; five if they don’t. With a handful of competitive races around the country, one seat can make all the difference.

In the game of chess that Democrats and Republicans play, even if Democrats’ favored candidates don’t end up winning in places like Indiana or Kansas, forcing Republicans to spend money in states they’d considered safe is its own victory.

“We’re seeing that more are tipping into play, maybe not winners, but in play,” said Michael Meehan, a longtime Democratic consultant, pointing to North Carolina, where GOP Sen. Richard Burr is defending his seat, and Arizona, where Sen. John McCain is up for re-election. Both are states where Hispanic voters angered by Trump’s rhetoric on immigration could create problems for GOP incumbents.

But Republican campaign officials disputed the notion the Democrats would be able to compete successfully in red states. They noted they scored their own coup last month, when they convinced Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former presidential candidate, to abandon his retirement plans and announce he would seek re-election.

 

Nation’s largest peace organization endorses Feingold

Peace Action, the nation’s largest peace organization, endorsed Democrat Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

“Peace Action is proud to endorse Russ Feingold,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action’s senior director and also the director of Peace Action’s PAC. “He warned of the folly of Bush’s Iraq war which turned out to be the largest foreign policy mistake of the century.

Martin added, “Additionally, Feingold thinks it is time to end our longest war in history — the Afghanistan War, that a large military intervention in Syria will only repeat the grave mistakes of the past and that we need to keep Pentagon bloat in check.  He concurs that the world needs to lessen the number of nuclear weapons and refrain from building more.  That’s why he supported the New START Treaty with Russia and the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  Peace Action is confident in Feingold making rational, studied foreign policy decisions and keeping a critical eye on Pentagon expenditures.  His policies will make Americans safer.

Nearly 60 years ago,

Peace Action was founded nearly 60 years ago. Peace Action has an affiliate in Wisconsin called Peace Action of Wisconsin.

The former senator said of the endorsement, “Peace Action has long taken a stand against the kind of rhetoric that drives fear, anger, and violence in our communities. I look forward to working alongside them to reduce threats to peace and ensure economic justice here in Wisconsin and across the world.”

Feingold is challenging incumbent Republican Ron Johnson for the Senate seat.

Murphy ends filibuster, Senate Republicans agree to votes on gun measures

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy ended a blockade of the Senate after nearly 15 hours, saying Republicans agreed to hold votes on measures to expand background checks and prevent people on U.S. terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

Democrats stalled Senate proceedings on June 15 and into June 16 in a bid to push for tougher gun control legislation following the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and spoke on the Senate floor through out the night.

Republicans, who currently have a 54-person majority in the Senate, have over the years blocked gun control measures, saying they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

“When we began there was no commitment, no plan to debate these measures,” Murphy, of Connecticut, said during the 15th hour of the filibuster early on Thursday.

He said Democrats were given a commitment by the Senate’s Republican leadership that votes would be allowed on two measures on preventing gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists and expanding background checks.

“No guarantee that those amendments pass but we’ll have some time to … prevail upon members to take these measures and turn them into law,” Murphy said.

With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the massacre, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns.

The Senate had began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists. The Orlando gunman, who carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, had been on such a list.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators on June 15 to offer ideas on how to prevent another attack like the one in Orlando.

Late on June 15, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said negotiations “were little more than a smokescreen by Republicans trying to give themselves political cover while they continue to march in lock-step with the NRA’s extreme positions.”

If Congress was to pass a gun control measure, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that lawmakers agreed on how to address the hot-button issue. A ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the one used in Orlando, had gone into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later.

U.S. Senate’s power brokers are aging; several seeking new terms

Millennials have emerged as the nation’s largest living generation yet that demographic shift isn’t reflected in the upper reaches of the Republican-controlled Senate, where the body’s oldest members are the power brokers.

And several are asking voters for new six-year terms.

At 82, Chuck Grassley wants Iowans to send him back to the Senate for a seventh time. The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee pitches his seniority as a plus, telling voters he gives them a “big voice at the policymaking tables” in Washington.

Arizona’s John McCain, the 79-year-old chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also is running for re-election. So are Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee chairman who turned 82 on Friday, and 71-year-old Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who leads the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate’s ethics panel.

Other committees are controlled by senior Republicans whose terms don’t end for at least a few more years. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is 82 and has been a senator since 1977 — the same year Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president, Elvis Presley died and the first Stars Wars movie came out.

Oklahoma’s James Inhofe is 81 and heads the Environment and Public Works Committee. Pat Roberts of Kansas, 80, runs the Agriculture Committee and 78-year-old Thad Cochran of Mississippi leads the powerful Appropriations Committee. At 75, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is 74.

Three senior Democrats have opted to retire at the end of the year: Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is 76, along with Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski, 79, and California’s Barbara Boxer, 75.

But Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, 76, is running for another term. Leahy, first elected in 1974, has been in office longer than any other currently serving senator — 41 years. He’s the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

The average age of all senators actually has decreased from 63 to 61 since 2009 due to younger members from political parties being elected, according to the Congressional Research Service. The youngest are members of Generation X: Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who turns 39 on May 13, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., 41.

Millennials, who are Americans born between 1981 and 1997, numbered 75.4 million as of last July and surpassed the shrinking baby boomer population, according to Pew Research Center senior researcher Richard Fry. He projects millennials to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million.

The Senate also remains overwhelmingly white and male. Of the Senate’s 16 full-time “standing” committees, 10 are chaired by white Republican men over the age of 70. One is led by a female Republican: Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska runs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, leads a special Senate Committee on Aging.

Overall, there are 20 women in the Senate — six are Republican.

There are three Hispanic senators, two African-American senators, and one Asian-American senator.

Age, strictly as a number, can be deceiving. Cochran isn’t the oldest senator, but questions about his mental state have persisted since he was re-elected to a seventh term in 2014.

During a bruising primary campaign in Mississippi, supporters of Cochran’s tea-party backed opponent accused Cochran of erratic behavior and struggling to recall recent events.

During Senate hearings, Cochran reads primarily from prepared text and he often cedes his prerogative as chairman to be the first to question witnesses. Cochran asked no questions of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at an April 27 hearing despite deep divisions between Republicans and the Obama administration over defense spending and the strategy for defeating the Islamic State group.

Chris Gallegos, Cochran’s spokesman, said the allegations during the 2014 primary were “not based on facts.” He said the senator is in fine health and keeps a vigorous schedule. “He knows what’s going on,” Gallegos said.

McCain shows no signs of losing his edge. He’s prone to skewering witnesses who appear before the Armed Services Committee, particularly if he finds inconsistencies in their testimony. McCain also regularly fields questions from throngs of reporters as he’s coming and going from votes on the Senate floor.

Isakson announced last June he has Parkinson’s, but said the disease is in its early stages and won’t affect his ability to serve. Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive movement disorder and it’s caused Isakson to walk with a slower, shuffling gate. Yet Isakson, in his second Senate term, is favored to win a third in heavily Republican Georgia. He won 58 percent of the vote in 2010.

In Iowa, Grassley’s age hasn’t been an issue before. He’s not lost a general election in more than 50 years, usually getting more than 60 percent of the vote. First elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1958, Grassley has served in Congress since 1974 including six years in the House and 36 years in the Senate.

Grassley isn’t the oldest senator. He’s a few months younger than Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who turns 83 on June 22.