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Their Time Has Come and Gone -- Our Politicians Need Constitutionally Enforced Age Limits

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

If elections were held today the biggest and best-known two names would be paired against each other again. One would win and I believe America would lose.

President Joe Biden is 80 years old. He will be 82 in 2024, and if re-elected would complete a second term at the age of 86. Former President Donald Trump will turn 80 halfway through a potential second term in office. Needless to say we have never been faced with a government led by octogenarians. I'm sure our founding fathers never anticipated this being a possibility.

However, there is a way for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to prevent such candidates from seeking the presidency as their party's nominee or as a third-party candidate resulting in a "Ross Perot effect" (Former President Bill Clinton never got the majority of the popular vote but won two elections comfortably because of a third-party candidate - Perot). The American people can simply pass a constitutional amendment on age limits for federal public servants.

We need to work toward a constitutional amendment that will "clean house" of the "old folks" once and for all.

I like "old folks," considering that I am getting closer to the old folks in many ways, but their time has come and gone.

I am not making this a partisan issue as it would affect both parties equally. The common denominator here is age. To the old folks, leave please. You won't so you must be forced to.

Nearly every employed American is required to leave their occupation at a certain age. It is not a reflection on their performance; it is because they are too old. As great as Michael Jordan was in basketball, he simply would not be the same if he played today. We love Mike, but really? Nolan Ryan's fastball would not be the same today. All baseball pitchers lose something on their fastball over time. Both, in their prime, were feared by their contemporaries, but not now. Why? Age.

In every way, 50- and 60-year-olds are often healthier than 80-year-olds. Usually, the latter folks are healthy until they are not. Then the vice president, who is not elected separately, becomes a far more critical position.

This amendment would be a simple one. Here's what it could look like:

AGE LIMIT AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION - will require mandatory retirement for all federal government workers at the age of 80. (This includes every branch of the federal government - executive, legislative, judicial, as well as their support staff.)

Anyone seeking to be elected to the executive branch (president or vice president) will be prohibited if, during their term in office, they shall reach the age of 80.

The 81-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who we wish a speedy recovery from a fall that resulted in a concussion and minor rib fracture, would be forced to leave the Senate after decades of service, as would former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and former House Whip Jim Clyburn - they all will be 83 or 84 this year. I served with them all 30 years ago, you know, back in the 20th century.

Numerous House and Senate committee chairmen/chairwomen would be forced to step down as well.

With such an amendment in place we would never have had the 87-year-old "Associate Justice Ruth Ginsberg dilemma." During her 80s, she refused to leave, preventing former President Barack Obama from nominating a younger justice to the court. The result: History has been altered.

Old folks, I say with affection, it certainly does not mean we do not appreciate your service. But, it does mean that it is time for a new generation of leaders to take the stage.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, upon completion of her term, will be the oldest person to ever serve in that position (and we have had 78 Treasury secretaries). As evidence of the two bank closures last week, you truly need to be very nimble in this position. The vast majority of Treasury secretaries have been in their 50s and 60s. Yellen will turn 77 this year.

This is a fight you must engage in for the benefit of your children, grandchildren and the nation.

It will not be easy. The last constitutional amendment took decades to adopt and was passed when I served in Congress in 1991. The Equal Rights Amendment failed despite strong support nationwide.

So why do I think this could be successful? This not only affects members of Congress or a portion of society - it affects everybody! And if most Americans would agree, we can get this passed.

Please contact me here (info@age-limitamendment.com) for details on how it can be done.

Gary Franks served three terms as U.S. representative for Connecticut's 5th District. He was the first Black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years and New England's first Black member of the House. Host: podcast "We Speak Frankly." Author: "With God, For God, and For Country." @GaryFranks


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