I’ve been pondering the implications of recent events in the Senate that lead me to believe that there is a need for a couple of new laws. The first law deals with the replacement of Senators following a vacancy. Given the hi-jinks that took place in New York and Illinois following the resignations of Hillary Clinton (D) and Barrack Obama (D), it seems like the recently passed law in Massachusetts would be one worth adapting elsewhere in the country. When a Senator retires or moves on to a new position, the Governor should be allowed to appoint a temporary replacement, who would not run for the office. They would be able to hold the seat for a six month period of time until a special election to fill the seat would be held. This suggested change in the law is a slight modification of the Constitutional Amendment that Senator Feingold has suggested.
The second law that should be put into place, is a mandatory retirement age for members of Congress. There is no reason that current Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) – 91 years old or former Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) – 100 years old, should put their constituents and the country at risk for attentive, timely and contemporary representation. Even the Catholic Church has suggested a papal retirement age of 80, recognizing the trials of the job and the declining physical and potential mental health of those holding this office. As I watched Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), 77 years old, dozing during the recent Senate Finance Committee hearings on the Baucus bill, the importance of a more energized and cogent team of players becomes all the more important. I’m happy to say that Senator Bunning is not running for re-election.
In addition to the physical ailments and slowing down of those over 75 or 80, the world views that they bring to their seats have been shaped by their experiences of a long lost cultural, economic and demographic reality. They frame their laws based on these views and perspectives not on the fast changing reality of today’s needs and demands.