Draining the Swamp

Should There Be Age and Term Limits for Members of the U.S. Legislature?

Members of Congress look on as former U.S. President Obama gives State of the Union Address

In American society, there are some careers, which may be very lucrative that people just aren't able to do forever.

Professional athletes, commercial airline pilots, supermodels, even artists in certain genres of music all have an unwritten shelf life policy in their hypothetical employee handbook that classifies their careers as stepping stones to assuming more senior levels in their individual industry.

For an example, there are a number of head coaches in the NFL and NBA who were former players. Tyra Banks used those younger years as a supermodel to parlay her career into becoming a legitimate television magnate with her competitive show America's Next Top Model.

Legendary hip-hop artist KRS-One hung up his microphone after a historic run as a rap group member and solo artist to pursue more meaningful pastures as a social justice educator. Nowadays, the 51-year-old Boogie Down Productions co-founder can be found lecturing college students on the true essence of rap music.

However, when it comes to the world of politics, people could surmise that there are no shelf life rules that apply. This is painstakingly clear if one analyzes the annals of the U.S House and the U.S. Senate. CNN.com published a report in 2013 titled "By the Numbers: Longest-Serving Members of Congress."

CNN's report cited data from the Congressional Research Service. This bureau's findings on the average shelf life of the typical U.S. House Representative and U.S. Senator was 9.1 years and 10.2 years, respectively. But there are some extreme examples of outliers.

Not only that, only 11 percent of all U.S. legislators have not sought re-election after their terms expired since 2000. When it comes to the distant outliers who have served in the U.S. Congress far longer than the average amount of years, there are many examples.

Democratic U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is a good example. The 77-year-old career politician is the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Senate. He hasn't budged from his seat in Washington for almost 39 years. However, there are more extreme examples than Leahy's.

John Dingell, Jr., a Democratic U.S. House Representative who serves a district in Michigan has been a member Congress for almost 58 years. He and his father, John Dingell, Sr., (who was first elected in 1933) served a combined tenure of over 80 years in Washington D.C.

The total list of U.S. legislators who throughout history have served on Capitol Hill for a period longer than 25 years that worked well past retirement age is far too long to include in this article. With all the talk about political experience being needed to perform these jobs, congressional approval ratings have been dismal over the years.

As far as age goes, the U.S. has slipped into a regressive state as it pertains to the average age of its congressmen and congresswomen. In the early 1800s, the average age of U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senators ranged from 44 to 47 years of age. In today's era, the average age ranges from 57 to 62-years-old.

Here's the current scenario: Members of Congress have gotten much older, they are serving in their positions much longer, and much less is getting done on the legislative side in Washington D.C. New ideas are needed and the "same old story" on Capitol Hill has not been receptive to change.

On the campaign trail, current U.S. President Donald J. Trump proclaimed that he was in favor of sponsoring a constitutional amendment, which would impose term limits on every single member of the U.S. Congress. What Trump does to actually "drain the swamp" has yet to be seen, however.

In the meanwhile, the American public still holds the keys to hiring and firing the Congress members as they see fit by participating in every election instead of just the presidential elections every four years. Laws get changed and added faster than humans can blink without people realizing anything.

Also, by federal law, the minimum age requirement for becoming a U.S. House Representative is 25 and the age is 30 for a U.S. Senator. The time has been due for a younger, more future-centric demographic to get involved in the business of governing the nation's legislative branch.

After all, the mistakes of today made by those members of Congress may not affect their tomorrow because some of them might not be there to see it. However, those in the under 40 crowd should anticipate being here and that's why it's imperative that they take more responsibility.

The future is now.

Victor Trammell
Victor Trammell

I'm a freelance writer and author. In July of 2012, my career as a published writer and journalist began. At that time, I was hired on as a staff writer and editor for YourBlackWorld.net and its affiliated sites. The rest is history.

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Draining the Swamp