Four Senate Appointees, Two More To Come: Is That A Record? : It's All Politics There are four current senators who were appointed, not elected, to their posts, and two more will be following, in Florida and Texas. But is that a record?
NPR logo Four Senate Appointees, Two More To Come: Is That A Record?

Four Senate Appointees, Two More To Come: Is That A Record?

A question from Sally Smith of Ashburn, Va.:

The U.S. Senate currently has four members who were appointed to the office: Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roland Burris (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE).

This number will surely grow, as two senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Mel Martinez (R-FL), have announced their decisions to resign, and two others, Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), are gravely ill. In the modern (post-17th Amendment) Senate, what has been the largest number of appointees?

Before I answer, one note about Massachusetts: It doesn't allow the governor to appoint a Senate successor. When John Kerry (D) was running for president in 2004, and a Republican, Mitt Romney, was governor, the Democratic-controlled state legislature pushed through a bill that would take away the power of the governor to appoint a senator in the event of a vacancy and instead call for a special election. So if Sen. Kennedy were to leave his post, his seat would be filled by an election, not appointment.

Back to your question. In an editorial earlier this week, the Washington Post noted that, when you include new appointments in Florida and Texas, "26.6 percent of the nation's population will be represented by a senator no one voted for."

But six states is not a record. I forwarded your question to Donald Ritchie, the associate historian of the Senate -- and soon to become the Senate historian, with the retirement later this month after 34 years of Richard Baker. He says that the largest number of Senate appointees was during the 79th Congress (1945-46), when there were 13 appointed senators (out of 96 at the time.)

The 13, listed in order of their appointment (senators in bold were subsequently elected): Frank Briggs (D-MO), Thomas Hart (R-CT), Milton Young (R-ND), E.P. Carville (D-NV), William Knowland (R-CA), James Huffman (D-OH), Charles Gossett (D-ID), William Stanfill (R-KY), Thomas Burch (D-VA), George Swift (D-AL), Spessard Holland (D-FL), Ralph Flanders (R-VT), and William Umstead (D-NC).

Briggs, by the way, was appointed to succeed Vice President Harry Truman. He was then defeated in the next election. And that leads to another fun fact: the immediate defeat of senators who were appointed to succeed vice presidents. It also happened to two others since Briggs: William Blakley (D-TX), who was appointed to replace Lyndon Johnson in 1961; and Wendell Anderson (D-MN), appointed to replace Walter Mondale in 1976.