When it comes to how old is too old for Congress, Colorado’s lawmakers believe

The pediatrician likened the considerations to the medical profession, where there is no mandatory retirement age, but practitioners have an ethical obligation to leave when it’s time. “I think that doctors are very good at knowing, ‘I make life and death decisions, and I should know when I’ve slowed down to a point where maybe it’s not a great idea for my patients anymore.’ I would hope that it’s the same thing here. That people would be cognizant of it’s time to pass the torch on to the next generation.”

Fellow freshman, Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen, 42, thinks term limits, rather than age limits, might be an approach. But she’d like to see people allowed to serve longer than the eight years allowed in each chamber of the Colorado State Legislature, which she thinks gives lobbyists more power. “There’s a time at which it’s time to step aside and make way for the next generation.” Pettersen noted the man she replaced, former Rep. Ed Perlmutter, did just that.

Perlmutter, 70, said he thinks an maximum age limit would be unconstitutional, and like others he thinks voters are the ultimate judges of someone’s fitness for office. But he added politicians also have to decide for themselves, like he did. He said he listened to his own “internal clock,” and when it told him enough is enough, he decided to step down in 2022.

It helped, he said, that there was a good bench in Colorado. “You’ve got to let the bench rise. You can’t say to somebody, ‘Oh, you’re doing great, but it’s not your turn yet.’”

He added retired lawmakers could always serve as informal advisors for those still serving. As he said with a chuckle, “there is life outside of Congress,” including interesting and rewarding work.

The oldest member of the Colorado delegation, Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper, 71, agreed retirement is less about age, and more about supporting new blood in Congress.  

“I definitely think there should be ways to encourage more turnover and maybe that’s a two term or three term limit for senators. Something that allows us to let the process reinvigorate itself,” he said.

Read More: When it comes to how old is too old for Congress, Colorado’s lawmakers believe

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