On March 21, 1950, an Illinois congressman named Ralph Church all of a sudden slumped in his seat whereas testifying earlier than a Home committee. His colleagues rushed to manage help, however he was pronounced useless of a coronary heart assault at 66.
He was neither the primary nor the final member of Congress to die in workplace. “You look again in historical past, practically one in 10 members of Congress have,” mentioned Jane L. Campbell, president of the U.S. Capitol Historic Society.
That historical past has some Democrats fearful that deaths or diseases might derail President Biden’s efforts to go formidable payments by means of Congress, which his social gathering controls by the narrowest margins in many years.
“Our capability to make good on Biden’s agenda is just about dangling by a thread,” mentioned Brian Fallon, a former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority chief. “I don’t suppose it’s uncouth to speak about it. I feel it’s a actuality that has to tell the urgency with which we method these points.”
Greater than 1,160 sitting members and members-elect have died from accidents, illness and violence because the first Congress met in 1789, in accordance with a New York Occasions evaluation of Home and Senate data. They embrace a number of Home audio system, famed senators and two former presidents: John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson, who each returned to Congress after leaving the White Home.
The pandemic and the Jan. 6 Capitol rebellion fueled fears that this Congress was significantly susceptible to such deaths. However with most members vaccinated and safety tightened, previous age could also be an even bigger menace. The typical age of a sitting senator is 64, and for a consultant it’s 58, making this Congress one of many oldest.
“Coronary heart illness and most cancers are actually the 2 most typical causes of mortality, and they’re each issues that improve with age,” mentioned Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor of medical ethics and well being coverage on the College of Pennsylvania, who served on Mr. Biden’s pandemic activity pressure earlier than he took workplace.