by Paul Jacob
“We have the oldest Senate in American history,” Roxanne Roberts writes in The Washington Post.
Roberts rattles off the five octogenarians — Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), age 88; Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), age 87; Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), age 87; Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), age 86; and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), age 81 — and tells us that “Twenty-three members of the Senate are in their 70s,” noting that “only one is under 40.”
That fledgling 34-year-old whippersnapper is newly elected Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff. But being 30 years younger than the current Senate average doesn’t make him better, that’s for sure.
Age isn’t the problem. Not exactly.
My issue with octogenarian Senators Feinstein, Grassley, Shelby, Inhofe and Leahy is that they’ve been politicians in Washington for the last 28, 40, 43, 34, and 46 years, respectively.
That’s way too long. They stop being one of us, representing us. And, left, right or in-between, we know it.
“Senior senators often stay for decades,” Roberts argues, “because voters are reluctant to give up the perks of incumbency: Seniority, committee chairmanships and all the money poured into their states.”
Ha! The idea that actual voters are unwilling to “give up the perks of incumbency” is laughable. It’s the incumbents themselves who leverage their votes in Congress to dramatically out-fundraise their challengers.
Voters rarely get much choice.
No wonder, then, that when people got a chance to vote to term-limit their own congressmen — they did so enthusiastically.
President Truman once quipped that legislative term limits would help “cure senility, and seniority — both terrible legislative diseases.” He understood that the Senate’s age problem is not time on the planet. It is the time in office.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
Reprinted with permission from https://thisiscommonsense.org/2021/06/09/senatorial-senility.