Friday, November 16, 2012

Election Boosts Iowa's Senate Seniority

Come January, Iowa will be the only state with two US senators in the top ten of seniority.

Senority - the ranked list of tenure of Senate service - is less important than it used to be, but still matters for committee assignments and chairs, and also for office space.

Chuck Grassley, first elected in 1980, climbs a notch to number 7 in the senate. Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, first elected in 1976, lost his primary, and then saw the seat go to Democrat Joe Donnelly last week.

Tom Harkin moves up two spots to number nine, number nine, number nine. That's due to Lugar's loss and the voluntary retirement of New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman, elected in 1978 1982.

Harkin could move up one more notch yet. John Kerry, who's considered a very likely cabinet appointment, outranks Harkin by one day. (In a practice since abandoned, outgoing senators used to resign early to game-play seniority for their successors.)

When the swearing in is on the same day, seniority resorts to tiebreakers like prior government service and size of state. The number 100 slot will go to North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. None of her prior service is considered relevant and she's from the third smallest state.

But how will this affect me, Al Franken? The Minnesota Democrat lost four rungs on the seniority ladder thanks to the months-long recount delaying his swearing in. Franken will jump 11 notches to number  71. There will be 12 new senators, but the lone Senator to lose re-election, Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, ranked below Franken in seniority.

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