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Senior status: Three members of Congress are older than the pope

by
Rep. Ralph Hall,R-Texas, Rep. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich,

The Catholic Church may be one of the few institutions on the planet where news of an employee's retirement at age 85 is considered "shocking." 

The other is the U.S. Congress. 

Pope Benedict's announcement today that he will be stepping down, ceding to the infirmities of old age, got us wondering how many members of Congress are older than the pontiff, who was born April 16, 1927.

Sunlight developer Eric Mill, using an API he recently produced, came up with a quick answer: Three.

Learn more about the Sunlight Congress API here.

The envelope, please:

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who will turn 90 in May.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., age 89

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich, age 86

The average age of the Senate in the 113th Congress is 62; it's 57 for House members. That's actually down from what it has been in recent years. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., was 100 when he retired from office in 2003 and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., was 92 when he died in office in 2010. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, was 88 when he died in office late last year.

From time to time the, ahem, seniority of lawmakers has become an issue. Then-Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., once cracked that Thurmond was enjoying "the best nursing home" by staying in the U.S. Senate. But Byrd passionately argued that age had no affect on his ability to serve his constituents -- who apparently agreed, reelecting him in 2006. "I will continue to do this work until this old body gives out," he said in a Senate speech -- and he did.