OPINION: We need congressional age limits

Since President Biden’s inauguration, the age of our elected representatives has been a heated conversation. Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, in fact, recently announced his retirement to make way for a “new generation of leaders,” and called upon President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to do the same. 

President Joe Biden poses for his official portrait Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in the Library of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Joe Biden

Since Biden ran for office in 2020, there have been concerns among many as a result of his age. Biden is currently the oldest President to have ever taken office.

78 years old at the time of his inauguration, he was four years older than his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Biden has fallen asleep at important moments, including a notorious dozing during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, Scotland.

This has even raised concerns among the less politically active Gen-Z.

Biden has also been caught slurring his words and appearing confused on multiple occasions.

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The official excuse has been that he has a stutter, but it is still hard to justify many of his gaffes.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 13: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speak to reporters following the weekly Senate policy luncheons at the U.S. Capitol on June 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Republicans spoke on the war in Ukraine, China and the economy. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell, the 81-year-old leader of the Senate Republicans, has also been caught on video apparently freezing while addressing the press in July at the United States Capitol.

The same thing happened again a month later in his home state of Kentucky after being asked if he plans to run for reelection in 2024.

 The public wondered if it was a stroke or seizure, but the US Capitol Physician cleared him to serve.

 The 81-year old senator has also fallen three times this year. The first being on a trip in February, and again at a hotel in Washington DC in which he reportedly received a concussion and was admitted into the hospital for a few days for “observation and treatment,” according to McConnel’s Communications director, David Popp. Another fall occurred in July at an airport in Washington D.C. 

California State Senator Dianne Feinstein delivers remarks at the 2021 Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in Washington DC, December 1, 2021. USDA Forest Service photo by Tanya E. Flores.

Diane Feinstein

Not to mention, Diane Feinstein, the 89-year-old California Senator is the oldest in the chamber and has been on a visible decline with her physical health and cognitive abilities. In February she contracted shingles, which caused her to take a leave of absence from her Senate duties.

When she returned to the Senate, she was resigned to a wheelchair and the left side of her face was seemingly frozen with her left eye virtually stuck shut. A spokesman confirmed that she had lasting side effects from the shingles, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome and additional cognitive decline. 

Her decline got attention at a Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing at the end of this July. The debate had ended, and it was time for a vote, and she instead decided to read her prepared remarks. She had to be prompted by Chairwoman Patty Murray “just press ‘aye.’”

Conflict within the Democratic Party

 Feinstein went on record saying she has no intention of resigning or retiring, which some of her Democratic peers have taken issue with. 

Observers have linked her continued presence in her Senate seat to an internal political battle between factions of the Democratic Party.

“You know, she’s had a very long and stellar career,” said Jamaal Bowman, a Representative from New York, “but missing that many votes, you know, it stops us from moving forward with Judge nominations.” 

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It seems clear that new leaders are needed, and adding age limits on who can take political office would ensure that the next generation is represented.

Avie Sark is a 17-year-old student at Ivy Tech Community College that plans to major in Law and Policy, and the President of Democrats For Life of Indiana, and an organizer with PAAU, the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising. Avie has been a political and human rights activist for the unborn and a number of other human rights issues since early 2022. 

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