BAR HARBOR, Maine – When he died last month at 92, Democrat Robert C. Byrd was the last serving member of the Senate born before 1920.
The man named Friday to replace him will become the first U.S. senator born in the 1970s.
Carte Goodwin, 36, was appointed by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin to serve until a special election this November decides who will hold the seat.
Goodwin, the former chief legal counsel to the Democratic governor, gives Democrats in the Senate a crucial 59th vote just as they prepare to push for passage of a key priority, an extension of unemployment benefits.
Senate leaders will move quickly to make use of Goodwin’s vote, planning a brief ceremony Tuesday afternoon to swear in their newest and youngest member. Moments later, the Senate will hold a key test vote on a Democrat-backed proposal to extend jobless benefits.
Goodwin’s time at the Capitol is expected to be brief. Manchin soon may sign pending legislation authorizing a special election to allow voters to choose a new senator to complete Byrd’s unexpired term and serve until 2013. Manchin has said he plans to run in that election.
Byrd was 57 years old and in his 21st year in Congress when Goodwin was born in 1974, a generational chasm that highlights the Senate’s long-standing reputation as a chamber of elders.
Before Byrd’s death, the average age of senators was more than 63 years, the highest in history, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In naming Goodwin, Manchin recognized the new senator’s youth. “We passed this torch to another generation,” Manchin said.
Goodwin said he was humbled by his selection. He said that while he could not replace Byrd, he would try “to emulate his work ethic and his commitment to the law, the Constitution, and this great state.”
Goodwin supplants Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., as the youngest Senate member. LeMieux, 41, was born in 1969.