A guide to the Senate’s freshman class

A guide to the Senate’s freshman class

The new class of senators who will be sworn in Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden is a diverse bunch. One of the only things these freshmen have in common is that, collectively, their entry into the upper chamber will lower its average age.

Eight Democrats, four Republicans and one independent (who plans to caucus with the Democrats) will gain entry into the country’s most exclusive club. They’ll join newly minted Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat who was sworn in one week ago to succeed the late Daniel Inouye. A 15th new senator will join the class early this year after Massachusetts’ John Kerry departs to run the State Department.

The new class puts an exclamation point on the current state of American politics: The Democrats span a wide spectrum of ideology and geography; the four Republicans are staunch conservatives, half of whom hail from the South. They also replace a dwindling number of “old bulls” in the upper chamber, giving states like Massachusetts and Hawaii — liberal bastions that have long enjoyed significant seniority — a dearth of institutional experience and knowledge there. Most Senate veterans also are quick to point out that five women are joining the upper chamber.

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