[Opinion] D.C. Needs Term Limits


Sixty-four, fifty-seven, thirty-eight. These numbers have an important meaning. The first is the average age of the United States Senate, the second is the average age of the United States House, and the final one is the average age of citizens of the United States. There is a twenty-six-year difference between the average age of Americans and members of Congress. The politicians who run our country are too old, term limits will change that.


The British Medical Journal conducted a study in 2012 that stated, “The brain’s capacity for memory, reasoning, and comprehension skills can start to deteriorate from age 45.” In addition to the British Medical Journal’s study, Marja Aartsen released a paper in 2002 which stated, “Cognitive decline may begin after midlife, but most often occurs at higher ages (70 or higher).” 34% of the United States Senate is above the age at which most cognitive decline occurs as noted in Aartsen’s study, with approximately 17% of the United States House being above that age.


Not only has Congress gotten older, but members of Congress are staying in Congress for longer. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average time spent in Congress for a Representative has increased threefold from 3 years during the 1880s to 9 years in the 2020s. Many Representatives stay longer than 9 years though with one member of the House, Hal Rogers, being in the House since 1981 which was during the Carter administration. To put the length of time Representative Rogers has been in Congress into perspective, a person can be born, graduate from high school, go to college for 4 years, go to law school for 4 years, and work as a lawyer for 16 years in order to be as old as Rep. Rogers has been in Congress.


The idea of term limits for the government isn’t new. In 1951 Congress passed and ratified the twenty-second amendment which made it so the President could only serve for 8 years. Thomas Dewey, a presidential candidate in 1944 & 1948 stated, “Four terms or sixteen years is the most dangerous threat to our freedom ever proposed. That is one reason why I believe that two terms must be established as the limit by constitutional amendment.” The 22nd amendment was ratified to stop the president from being president for too long as it would result in a lack of new ideas and change. A constitutional amendment limiting members of Congress is desperately needed in order to ensure that members of Congress are not serving for half of their life. 


One could argue that term limits show a lack of trust in the electorate to choose competent and new ideas. However, term limits simply provide a safeguard against having a government that serves for life. If the government served for life it would not be a democracy but rather a borderline elective monarchy. If you live your entire life with the same person in charge nothing will change, it will just be a never-ending stream of the same policies and ideas.


Washington D.C. desperately needs term limits and there are several pieces of legislation currently attempting to enact them. Congress is getting too old and is staying too long. Large portions of Congress are above the age when the mental decline begins. Several members of Congress have been there for more than half of their life. In the words of Mark Twain, “Politicians are like diapers, they need to be changed often, and for the same reasons”