(WATCH) Old in Congress

(Original airdate Jan. 30)

If you haven’t noticed, the country is getting older. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. The average age of the American worker has crept from 30 to 42 over the last few decades. Among federal employees, more than a quarter are now older than 55. But what about our leaders? Scott Thuman has been looking into the more mature side of Washington.

You could argue it’s the most powerful place on the planet. Five hundred thirty-five decision-makers in a 221-year-old building, picking policies that affect almost everyone.

Though in this aged institution, there’s an aging body, too.

Just look at the current House Leadership. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 81; Steny Hoyer, 82; James Clyburn, 81. As for Republicans, while Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is only 56, the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell’s 79. In fact, this is the oldest U.S. Senate ever, with only one member, Georgia’s Jon Ossoff, under 40.

Scott: Is Congress too old?

Gary Nordlinger: I guess it depends on who you ask. At what point will the 40 or 50-year-old Democrats just simply say to the entire democratic leadership team, all in their eighties, that, “Come on, guys, there’s a time to be great and a time to let go.”

Gary Nordlinger, Professor at George Washington University, points out the founding fathers may have mandated minimum age requirements, but not a maximum. And it shows.

Nordlinger: I don’t know if it’s because their age or where they’re from, but do they really have their pulse on what people in this country are thinking? I mean, I don’t know how often Nancy Pelosi has an opportunity to get outside of her sort of San Francisco liberal echo chamber.

Scott: Well and obviously it crosses the aisle as well. I mean, you’ve got Chuck Grassley.

Nordlinger: Oh my God. 88 years old running for re-election.

Scott: I think in his reelection video, he was out doing a little jog, trying to be sprightly. Is this an eternal challenge now for some of the octogenarian lawmakers to try and let Americans know they still have it?

Nordlinger: Yes, but it’s got to be genuine, you know. When you start recycling your footage from six or 12 years ago for your campaign ads because you’ll look younger, then you know you’re in trouble age-wise.

When it comes to aging leadership in Washington, it’s not just Capitol Hill. The justices at the Supreme Court, with lifetime appointments, average 65. And over at the White House, President Biden, age 79, says he ready to go again.

In his first press conference this year, the president confirmed the democratic ticket for 2024.

Reporter: You put Vice President Harris in charge of voting rights. And can you guarantee — do you commit that she will be your running mate in 2024, provided that you run again?

President Biden: Yes, and yes.

If he wins and finishes both terms he would be president at 85. Meanwhile, former President Trump, if he runs again, would be 78 on the campaign trail.

Nordlinger: Can I just say the one positive about age, by the way, is you remember history.

Scott: What you’re saying is, there’s a lot to be said for experience.

Nordlinger: I’ll bet the new England Patriots are regretting not giving Tom Brady that two-year contract extension he wanted.

Like with Brady, the winningest and oldest NFL quarterback at 44, Gary says experience can help avoid mistakes.

But if the average American, age 38, doesn’t like the surplus of senior citizens in charge in D.C., look no further than the ballot box. Congress has a lowly approval rating of just 28%, yet a more than 90% success rate at getting re-elected. Meaning at these swearing-in ceremonies, what’s old is new again.

On Capitol Hill, Scott Thuman, Full Measure.

Watch “Old in Congress” here.

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