Washington is full of lawmakers who are way past 'traditional retirement age' — but refuse to retire: report
On Capitol Hill, it isn’t hard to find political leaders who are in their seventies or eighties. President Joe Biden is 79 and will be 80 on November 20; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 80, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 82 and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 71. Others are well into middle age but younger than most U.S. senators; Vice President Kamala Harris and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are both 57.
Former President Donald Trump often makes ageist comments about Biden, calling him “Sleepy Joe” — which is ironic because Trump is 76. And while Trump is known for playing golf, Biden is still an avid runner.
In an article published by Business Insider on September 13, journalist Warren Rojas examines what it is like for lawmakers who have reached retirement age but have no interest in retiring.
“Congress today is as old as the legislative branch has ever been,” Rojas explains. “The 117th Congress has 21 lawmakers who are in their 80s and 103 who are in their 70s, and the average age of a senator is 63, an Insider analysis found…. Veteran Capitol Hill staffers told Insider that career lawmakers who serve well beyond traditional retirement age typically endure one final, grueling rite of passage before taking their place in history: a gauntlet of damning headlines and vicious rumors impugning their ability to serve.”
Rojas adds, “There's plenty of reasons for this, as evidenced by an Insider report on how aging affects politicians' greatest weapon — their brains — delving into how mental acuity, cognitive function, and ‘crystallized intelligence’ play into modern politics.”
Different people age differently. Some people who live to 85 or 90 may battle diabetes or heart disease but never lose anything mentally or intellectually. Rojas notes that declining physically doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with declining mentally, although people think it does.
A former aide to the late Sen. Robert Byrd, quoted anonymously, told Business Insider, “Our society as a whole looks at age and sees someone who's walking with a cane or a walker and tends to think that there are mental issues as well as physical issues. And that's not always the case.”
Rojas points out that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is almost 89 but has expressed no interest in retiring. In fact, he’s running for reelection in the 2022 midterms.
“In the internet age” Rojas explains, “criticisms that lawmakers are lingering too long don't stay within the Capitol — they play out in public. Critics contend that Grassley, the eighth-longest-serving senator in U.S. history, is risking a lot — particularly his legacy of non-partisan oversight — by extending his six-decade run as a public servant into his 90s. He announced his latest reelection bid in September 2021, proclaiming his desire to continue putting in long hours and communicating via his Twitter account, where he's feuded with the History Channel, worshipped Dairy Queen's frozen desserts, and chronicled life with his wife of 68 years, Barbara.”
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