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Let's Set an Age Limit for Elected Officials

Updated: Mar 25

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In recent years, term and age limits have become major talking points. Candidates and elected officials are seemingly getting older and older. President Biden will be turning 81 this year and potential Republican nominee Donald Trump is 77. Both candidates seek a four-year term. Other politicians have come under fire as well. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, has been seen on video freezing during press conferences, unable to move or speak.


On the other side of the aisle, Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, 90, shockingly announced she had granted her daughter Power of Attorney. Despite the cause for alarm, there is no law or amendment that puts a stop to the amount of time you can sit in office. A Senator, for example, can run for an infinite number of 6-year terms. We need age limits to prevent lifelong politicians.


Operative Definitions


  1. Term limits: Per the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”

  2. Age limits: The proposed policy would amend the 22nd Amendment and create a second subsection for members of Congress to cap service at 70 years old. Politicians would not be able to run for re-election if they turned 70 before the upcoming Midterm cycle.  


Important Facts & Statistics

 

  1. This diagram, using data from the Congressional Directory, shows that the average age of members of Congress is the highest it has been in 100 years.

  2. A nationally representative CBS poll indicated that 73% of Americans support age limits (approximately 70% of liberals, 76% of moderates and 74% of conservatives). 

  3. 40% of respondents indicated that the maximum age limit should be 70.

  4. A resolution brought forward by Representative John James of Michigan calls for age limits.

  5. Senator Ted Cruz introduced a Senate resolution calling for term limits, with 17 cosponsors.


Three-Point Plan


(1) Promote the initiative. 

Data already demonstrates that the general public is on board with change. In fact, age limits are a bipartisan issue. Support is found on both party lines, both sides of the ideological spectrum and among moderates. Politicians who support this much-needed reform, like James and Cruz, must use their platform to raise more awareness. Publicity on social and news media outlets are a way to quickly spread a message, especially nighttime news.  


(2) Add measures to state and local ballots. 

Although polling indicates support for age limits, the most impactful test of public endorsement is voting. One way to accomplish this is through an advisory question on a ballot. Advisory questions are non-binding and used by politicians to gauge public response on an issue rather than throwing a law or bill on the ballot firsthand. Polling indicates that the public will support an age-limit amendment. To amend the Constitution, state legislatures are required, and they will be more likely to support this initiative if they know they are siding with the constituents. 


(3) Lobby Congress to gain support.

The largest task is generating Congressional support, seeing as this measure would directly impact Congresspeople and their ability to serve. By lobbying to Congresspeople, attending hearings, promoting online activism and voting, the public at large can pressure those who are not supportive. If Congress represents the people, and the people approve of age limits, it is in the best interest of Congress to act in favor of the public.


Why This Initiative Is Important


The average age of a Senator is 65. Many Congresspeople run the risk of overserving, compromising their ability to run the country, fostering lifelong politicians and diminishing the representation of younger interests in Congress. We need a bipartisan measure to combat this trend. Setting an age limit isn’t a perfect science, but it’s a much-needed step on the road to more effective government. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Bolton, Alexander. “Feinstein Gave Daughter Power of Attorney to Focus on Work in Congress .” The Hill, NEXSTAR MEDIA INC., 7 Sept. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4191898-feinstein-gave-daughter-power-of-attorney-to-focus-on-work-in-congress/


De Pinto, Jennifer. “CBS News Poll: Big Majority Favor Maximum Age Limits for Elected Officials.” CBS News, CBS Interactive Inc., 8 Sept. 2022, www.cbsnews.com/news/elected-officials-maximum-age-limits-opinion-poll-2022-09-08/


DiCamillo, Mark. “Release #2023-05: Feinstein and Preferences for US Senate.” eScholarship, University of California, 25 May 2023, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/5gk3z8qc


“Election Results, 2020: Incumbent Win Rates by State.” Ballotpedia, 11 Feb. 2021, https://ballotpedia.org/Election_results,_2020:_Incumbent_win_rates_by_state


"H.J.Res.87 - 118th Congress (2023-2024): Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to establish an upper limit on the age of eligibility for service as President, Vice President, or Member of Congress." Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 5 September 2023, https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-joint-resolution/87.


Kim, Juliana. “After McConnell’s and Feinstein’s Episodes, Should Age Limits Be on the Table?” NPR, 31 July 2023, www.npr.org/2023/07/31/1190675707/mcconnell-feinstein-medical-episodes-maximum-age-limits.


Miranda, Shauneen. “Over 75% of Voters Want Maximum Age Limit for Elected Officials, Poll Shows.” Axios, 10 Sept. 2023, www.axios.com/2023/09/10/politicians-age-limits-joe-biden-mitch-mcconnell.


"S.J.Res.2 - 118th Congress (2023-2024): A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to limiting the number of terms that a Member of Congress may serve." Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 23 January 2023, https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/2.


Skelley, Geoffrey. “Congress Today Is Older Than It’s Ever Been.” FiveThirtyEight, ABC News Internet Ventures, 3 Apr. 2023, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/aging-congress-boomers/.

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