The Democratic duo from the Evergreen State will become just the second state delegation of women U.S. Senators to serve 20+ years together

In the more than 230-year history of the chamber, only 30 pairs of U.S. Senators from the same state have served alongside one another for at least two full decades.

That club will add another pair as the 117th Congress convenes next January, when Washington Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell reach that milestone.

Murray has now served more than 27 years in the U.S. Senate since taking office in 1993 as she continues to inch closer to the all-time mark for service by a woman held by retired Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski at 30 years.

Murray is currently in third place on that list – approximately two months shy of California’s Dianne Feinstein. [Note: Murray, who is 17 years Feinstein’s junior, is up for reelection in 2022; Feinstein’s term is up in 2024].

Cantwell was elected to her fourth term in 2018 and has now served a shade more than 19 years as her state’s junior Senator.

And so, on January 3, 2021, Cantwell and Murray will join 30 other U.S. Senate delegation pairs who served together for at least 20 years.

The last pair to do so were Alabama Republicans Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, who comprised their state’s delegation to the upper chamber for 20 years, 1 month, and 6 days until Sessions resigned to become U.S. Attorney General in February 2017.

Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are currently the only female delegation on the list – serving together for 24 years until Boxer’s retirement in January 2017.

Of the 30 pairs of U.S. Senators, none served in the 18th Century and five served at least partially in the 19th Century:

  • Vermont Republicans George Edmunds and Justin Morrill (1867-1891): 24 years, 7 months, 28 days
  • Missouri Democrats Francis Cockrell and George Vest (1879-1903): 24 years
  • Connecticut Republicans Orville Platt and Joseph Hawley (1881-1905): 24 years
  • Maine Republicans Eugene Hale and William Frye (1881-1911): 29 years, 11 months, 13 days
  • Wyoming Republicans Clarence Clark and Francis Warren (1895-1917): 22 years

Twelve pairs served into the 21st Century:

  • South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond and Democrat Fritz Hollings (1966-2003): 36 years, 1 month, 26 days (the longest-serving pair in U.S. Senate history)
  • Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin (1985-2015): 30 years
  • Delaware Republican Bill Roth and Democrat Joe Biden (1973-2001): 28 years
  • New Mexico Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman (1986-2009): 26 years
  • West Virginia Democrats Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller (1985-2010): 25 years, 5 months, 13 days
  • Massachusetts Democrats Ted Kennedy and John Kerry (1985-2009): 24 years, 7 months, 23 days
  • California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (1993-2017): 24 years
  • Hawaii Democrats Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka (1990-2012): 22 years, 7 months, 1 day
  • Connecticut Democrats Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman (1989-2011): 22 years
  • Alaska Republicans Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski (1981-2002): 21 years, 10 months, 29 days
  • Alabama Democrat-turned-Republican Richard Shelby and Republican Jeff Sessions (1997-2017): 20 years, 1 month, 6 days
  • Maryland Democrats Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski (1987-2007): 20 years

Only seven pairs of the 20-20 club were affiliated with different political parties (excluding Shelby/Sessions):

  • South Carolina: Thurmond and Hollings
  • Iowa: Grassley and Harkin
  • Delaware: Roth and Biden
  • New Mexico: Domenici and Bingaman
  • North Dakota: Republican Milton Young and Democrat Quentin Burdick (1960-1981)
  • Rhode Island: Democrat Claiborne Pell and Republican John Chafee (1976-1997)
  • New Jersey: Republican Clifford Case and Democrat Harrison Williams (1959-1979)

It will take a while for the U.S. Senate to see its 32nd pair hit the 20-20 mark.

Aside from Washington, the current delegations of only six states have been together for more than a decade, and each less than 14 years:

  • Vermont: Democrat Pat Leahy and independent Bernie Sanders (2007-present): 13 years, 11 days
  • Rhode Island: Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse (2007-present): 13 years, 11 days
  • Wyoming: Republicans Mike Enzi and John Barrasso (2007-present): 12 years, 6 months, 23 days
  • Idaho: Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch: (2009-present): 11 years, 11 days
  • Oregon: Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (2009-present): 11 years, 11 days
  • New York: Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (2009-present): 10 years, 11 months, 19 days

Delaware Democrats Tom Carper and Chris Coons will also hit the decade mark in November of this year (November 2010-present).

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  1. Nikoli Orr on January 13, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    1. NM: Bingaman commenced his Senate tenure in 01 of 1983, and served nearly all of his 30 years in the chamber as the the ‘junior’ senator.

    2. UT: Had the ‘petition option’ been available for 3-term Senator “Bob” Bennett in 2010 – and provided he prevailed in the presumably determinative R primary election – he and Orrin Grant Hatch would have reached the “20 years +” milestone in 2013.

    3. AL: Should Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III manage to defeat “Doug” Jones (after somehow securing the nomination, which is arguably the higher hurdle, it seems), the Shelby-Sessions pair would add at least two more years to their tandem tenure in the Senate.

  2. Steven Kamp on January 14, 2020 at 9:34 am

    What about the previous legendary team from Washington State…Warren Magnuson 1944-1980 and Henry Jackson 1952-1983. They served together for all of the two decades from 1960 to 1980

    • Dr Eric Ostermeier on January 14, 2020 at 9:58 am

      They rank tied for #6 (with Roth/Biden) at 28 years. [Not all 30 pairs were listed in the report, specifically those who served together exclusively in the 20th Century].

  3. Nikoli Orr on January 15, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    It is noteworthy that the bulk of the “20+” pairs have at least one D in the mix, particularly those after the commencement of direct elections (from 1913 on). Too, NO PAIR from the “North Coast” (i.e. Great Lakes) states has achieved the milestone thus far (even the current NY pair seems unlikely to reach it, for Schumer may be serving his final term, and Gillibrand may either depart of her own volition or be ousted in her party primary election in the wake of her dismal presidential bid).

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