The generational gap in Congress is all too real – Baby Boomers represent half of the votes in our U.S. Congress. The average age of our senators and representatives makes our Congress among the oldest ever. The average Senator is 64 and the average Representative is 58.
People over 70 recently held some of the top positions in our Federal Government. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 81, President Biden is 78, former President Trump is 76, Minority Leader Mitch McConnel is 80, Bernie Sanders is 81 and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is 89. If he is re-elected in November, he will be 92 by the time he is up for reelection.
A recent poll by CBS and YouGov has shown that a growing contingent of voters doubt whether someone born during World War II can realistically understand our nation’s modern needs.
Over half of Americans believe there should be a maximum age limit for someone to be able to serve in the Federal Government. Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say this – 64% to 57% respectively. However, no one age or ethnic group is more likely to believe this, according to the poll.
When asked what the age limit should be, 40% of respondents said 70 years old. That would make 30% of our current Congress ineligible to serve. Thirty percent new faces, new ideas and new ways to make our country better.
When minimum age limits were set up during the early years of our country, the 1870s, life expectance was 39 years old. The idea of having a maximum age limit was not something they even dreamt of considering. Like Alexander Hamilton says in the song “My Shot,” “See, I never thought I’d live past twenty. Where I come from some get half as many.” Being too old to work was not even on their radar.
Today, the average life expectancy has nearly doubled to 79. Our country’s needs changed, and topics not even considered back then, like a maximum age limit, need to be considered now – which is why the founders gave us the tools to include the things they forgot.
The only thing standing in our way is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act which forbids discrimination against people over 40 unless they belong to certain fields, like being a judge or a pilot. However, it was amended in 1978 to prohibit a mandatory retirement before age 70, so placing a mandatory “retirement” or parameter around federal government jobs could be within our legal right. We just need to convince our congressmen to listen to us.
Some say term limits or running a “mental capabilities” test like what the military does would be better, but with the average age of first election occurring in their late 40s, simply placing term limits may not be enough to get the change we desire. Getting Congress on the list of professions able to mandatory retirement age is the best option to lowering the average age of our U.S. Congressmen.