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Strange Bedfellows: The Curious Case of Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin

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Iowa U.S. Senatorial duo have now served side-by-side for the third longest period in U.S. Senate history for state delegation members of different political parties

With Republican Chuck Grassley's election to a sixth term last November, the Iowa U.S. Senate delegation of Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin are beginning to pass some prominent names on a rarefied list.

Grassley and Harkin have now served together in the U.S. Senate for 26.1 years, which is not simply the longest current streak in the nation's upper legislative chamber, but one of the longest in U.S. history.

A Smart Politics review of U.S. Senate biographical data finds that Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin have notched the ninth longest period of consecutive service for a statewide Senate delegation overall, and the third longest stretch ever recorded for Senators from different political parties.

Only South Carolina's Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings (1966-2003) and Delaware's William Roth and Joe Biden (1973-2001) have eclipsed the Grassley-Harkin split-party delegation mark in over 220 years of U.S. Senate history.

Thurmond and Hollings notched 36.2 years of consecutive service before Thurmond's death in 2003 while Roth and Biden put in 28 years together before Roth was defeated by current Delaware Senator Tom Carper in 2000.

Grassley and Harkin will pass Roth and Biden in January of 2013 for second place on the all-time U.S. Senate 'strange bedfellows' list.

With the commencement of the 112th Congress, the Iowa twosome recently passed up Democrat Jeff Bingaman and former Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, who recorded 26 years of consecutive service together from 1983-2009.

Once Harkin finishes his fifth term in January 2015, the duo will have ascended from their current 9th position overall to the third longest period of joint service in U.S. Senate history at 30 years.

Harkin would be 75 years old at that time while Grassley would be 81.

In order to pass Thurmond and Hollings' all-time mark, Harkin would have to get reelected to a sixth term in 2014 and a seventh term in 2020 and Grassley reelected to a seventh term in 2016 to set the record in the Spring of 2021.

Altogether, of the nearly 2,000 men and women who have served in the Senate since it first convened in 1789, only 28 state delegation pairs have served together for at least 20 years.

There have been 14 pairs of Democrats, seven pairs of Republicans, and seven pairs of one Democrat and one Republican to reach this level of side-by-side service.

Aside from Grassley and Harkin, the only other current pair of Senators from the same state who have eclipsed the 20-year mark of serving together in the Senate are Hawaii Democrats Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka (ranking #24 at 20.8 years and counting).

And how have the remaining Top 28 twosomes ended in history?

· Four Senators died in office: West Virginia's Robert Byrd in 2010 (paired with Jay Rockefeller), Massachusett's Ted Kennedy in 2009 (with John Kerry), Louisiana's Allen Ellender in 1972 (with Russell Long), and North Carolina's Lee Overman in 1930 (with Furnifold Simmons).

· Three Senators resigned from office: Alaska's Frank Murkowski in 2002 (with Ted Stevens), Oregon's Bob Packwood in 1995 (with Mark Hatfield), and Vermont's George Edmunds in 1891 (with Justin Morrill).

· Three were defeated in the general election: Delaware's William Roth in 2000 (with Joe Biden), Washington's Warren Magnuson in 1980 (with Scoop Jackson), and Wyoming's Clarence Clark in 1916 (with Francis Warren).

· Another two veteran Senators lost the bid for their party's renomination: New Jersey's Clifford Case in 1978 (with Harrison Williams) and Arkansas's J. William Fulbright in 1974 (with John McClellan).

· The remaining 14 Senators retired from their seat and did not seek reelection: South Carolina's Strom Thurmond in 2003 (with Ernest Hollings), Mississippi's James Eastland (pictured, paired with John Stennis), Maine's Eugene Hale (with William Frye), New Mexico's Pete Domenici (with Jeff Bingaman), West Virginia's Jennings Randolph (with Robert Byrd), Connecticut's Joseph Hawley (with Orville Platt) and Chris Dodd (with Joe Lieberman), Missouri's George Vest (with Francis Cockrell), Georgia's Walter George (with Richard Russell), Alabama's J. Lister Hill (with John Sparkman), Nebraska's Roman Hruska (with Carl Curtis), North Dakota's Milton Young (with Quentin Burdick), Rhode Island's Claiborne Pell (with John Chafee), and Maryland's Paul Sarbanes (with Barbara Mikulski).

The political longevity of Grassley and Harkin is a testament to the Hawkeye State's true battleground state status. (Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have split the last 12 elections in Iowa at six victories for each party).

For example, the voting record of neither Senator in recent years has even flirted with the political center, and yet each has cruised to reelection victory.

National Journal ranked Grassley as the 27th most conservative member in 2009, #19 in 2008, #25 in 2007, #23 in 2006, and #27 in 2005.

Harkin, meanwhile, ranked as the 16th most liberal Senator in 2009, #27 in 2008, #11 in 2007, #5 in 2006, and #6 in 2005.

Next on the list for the Iowa delegation: passing up Oregon's Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood for 8th place on the all-time list in October of this year.

U.S. Senate State Delegation Duos with 20+ Years of Service, 1789-Present

Rank
State
Senator
Senator
Years
Total
1
SC
Strom Thurmond (R)
Ernest Hollings (D)
1966-2003
36.2
2
MS
James Eastland (D)
John Stennis (D)
1947-1978
31.2
3
AR
John McClellan (D)
J. William Fulbright (D)
1945-1974
29.9
4
ME
Eugene Hale (R)
William Frye (R)
1881-1911
29.9
5
DE
William Roth (R)
Joe Biden (D)
1973-2001
28.0
5
WA
Warren Magnuson (D)
Scoop Jackson (D)
1953-1981
28.0
7
NC
Furnifold Simmons (D)
Lee Overman (D)
1903-1930
27.8
8
OR
Mark Hatfield (R)
Bob Packwood (R)
1969-1995
26.7
9
IA
Charles Grassley (R)
Tom Harkin (D)
1985-
26.1
10
NM
Pete Domenici (R)
Jeff Bingaman (D)
1983-2009
26.0
10
WV
Jennings Randolph (D)
Robert Byrd (D)
1959-1985
26.0
12
WV
Robert Byrd (D)
Jay Rockefeller (D)
1985-2010
25.4
13
VT
George Edmunds (R)
Justin Morrill (R)
1867-1891
24.7
14
MA
Ted Kennedy (D)
John Kerry (D)
1985-2009
24.6
15
CT
Orville Platt  (R)
Joseph Hawley (R)
1881-1905
24.0
15
MO
Francis Cockrell (D)
George Vest (D)
1879-1903
24.0
15
GA
Walter George (D)
Richard Russell (D)
1933-1957
24.0
18
LA
Allen Ellender (D)
Russell Long (D)
1948-1972
23.6
19
AK
Ted Stevens (R)
Frank Murkowski (R)
1981-2002
22.9
20
AL
J. Lister Hill (D)
John Sparkman (D)
1946-1969
22.2
21
NE
Roman Hruska (R)
Carl Curtis (R)
1955-1976
22.0
21
CT
Chris Dodd (D)
Joe Lieberman (D)
1989-2011
22.0
21
WY
Clarence Clark (R)
Francis Warren (R)
1895-1917
22.0
24
HI
Daniel Inouye (D)
Daniel Akaka (D)
1990-
20.8
26
ND
Milton Young (R)
Quentin Burdick (D)
1960-1981
20.4
26
RI
Claiborne Pell (D)
John Chafee (R)
1976-1997
20.0
26
MD
Paul Sarbanes (D)
Barbara Mikulski (D)
1987-2007
20.0
26
NJ
Clifford Case (R)
Harrison Williams (D)
1959-1979
20.0
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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