There have been over 50 people who have served over 35 years in the House of Representatives. The longest continuously serving member in the House just recently retired earlier this year, with 59 years and 21 days in office. The man who holds that particular honor is John Dingell. Mr. Dingell first became a congressman in January 3rd, 1965.
There have been over 20 people who have served over 35 years in the Senate. The senator who holds the record as the longest continuously serving member in the Senate, was also a relatively recent Senator. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who served 51 years and 176 days in office, died in office in 2010.
There have been over 100 people who have over 36 years of combined service in both the House and Senate. Over 50 of these people were allowed to retire from office. 22 of these people died in office. Two resigned their office (Senators James Eastland and Nathaniel Macon).
Only 14 of those members of the House and Senate ever lost their party’s nomination in the primaries and or were defeated in the general election. That means once a member of Congress reaches the 36 year mark they are more likely to die in office than to get kicked out of office through losing an election. There are currently 11 members of Congress who have over 36 years in office. That means, statistically, one or maybe two will ever be voted out of office. More likely they are now in positions for life, or at least until they choose to retire.
For those of you counting the remaining members took on other positions in government such as John Sherman who went on to become the Secretary of State in 1897. Others went on to become Vice Presidents (such as Vice President Biden) and one even became our current Ambassador to China (Max Baucus).
This was not the intent of our founding fathers when they created Congress. A key part of the process, as seen by the likes of President John Adams and George Washington, was that there would be a rotation of citizen legislators. Citizens were to take time away from whatever their professions were and spend a period of time serving their county. After that short period had passed these public servants were then to return to their original profession. Being a politician has become a profession in itself. Term limits are needed to prevent this growing trend. No one was supposed to serve over 35 years in the House and or Senate. We should not have people who are more likely to die in office than get voted out. That is not how our founding fathers envisioned our country being run and this is one of many reasons we need term limits on Congress.