I don't think too many will argue with the idea that being in the US Senate has many perks and opportunities for each Senator to have control and the power to have people come to them if they want something. The one control that Sen. Byrd had and did not take advantage of is deciding what day he would retire from the US Senate. This diary is not intended to disparage or criticize Sen. Robert Byrd, and he is certainly not the only elected member of the Federal government that has failed at this control. If you look at a job, any job, there are four ways that you can leave it, but only one way that you have complete control over. You can be fired, you can reach a mandatory reirement age, you can die, or you can resign and retire. Only the last way is the one that an individual has complete control over.
Now elected members of Congress have only three ways, because unlike many private corporations they do not have a mandatory retirement age. The US Constitution requires a minimum age to become a member of the US House or US Senate, but it does not require a mandatory retirement age. An oversight? Or something like the 17th Amendment has changed the rules enough to make a mandatory retirement age more necessary now.
I do not favor term limits, and I will give you a couple of reasons why. One reason is that an unintended consequence of term limits is that a term limited senator is a lame duck senator for six years. I worry enough about the damage lame duck senators can do currently in two months of November and December without having to worry about the damage they can do with six years time to do it in. The second reason has to do with age. Why should a 30 year old US Senator be required to leave the Senate at the age of 48? If the person has good health, is not too old, and the voters in the state want this person as their Senator, then what is the greater good for term limits.
I do favor a mandatory retirement age limit, and I submit that before and after the Word became flesh there has been nobody who is perfect. I have below a list below of 11 current US Senators who are 75 years old or older, and 3 of them are considered safe in their 2010 election. The one thing about an individual senator choosing to resign and retire is that they can make this choice any time they want to. They do not have to wait until they are up for reelection. So I will watch to see if any of these choose this option between now and 2016.
Herb Kohl February 7, 1935
Cross-posted at The Minority Report