'I know which ones are nuts already': Senators skeptical of Nikki Haley’s political age test proposal
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a press briefing at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley’s turning heads this week, and not just those of Don Lemon’s bosses over at CNN.

The former South Carolina governor’s proposal to test the mental fitness of the nation’s oldest politicians is being embraced by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, expanded by others, and brushed aside — or laughed off — by many.

She’s running. And she went there.

“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” Haley told the crowd at her kickoff campaign rally in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday. “We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”

Just three days into her 2024 presidential election, Haley won the internet and cable shows Thursday after CNN’s Don Lemon stepped into boiling hot sexist water when he claimed the 51-year-old former governor — and all women 50 and above — is past her “prime.”

When women everywhere — including his CNN co-hosts and colleagues alike — pounced on Lemon’s overt and unabashed sexism, the CNN host attempted to walk back his comments, which only provided more fodder for his critics.

Lemon’s non-apology apology didn’t matter to Haley and her team. They spent the day tweeting and retweeting a highlight reel of pro-women, anti-Lemon, and never-CNN content. The Republican base is now watching Haley after they spent the day reveling in the unforced error from the infotainment network they love hating.

Haley may already be turning heads nationwide but she’s also striking some nerves in ever-staid Washington — a town she claims to be an outsider in, even after her almost two-year stint serving as Trump’s U.N. ambassador — especially at the Capitol, which many insiders joke serves as a retirement home for many of the nation’s politicians.

Haley’s proposal would apply to 16 current senators, including four Republicans — Sens. Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell, Jim Risch, and Mitt Romney. Romney, 75, says bring it on.

“I'm happy to sign up and take the test,” Romney (R-UT) told Raw Story while walking back to his personal office after voting Thursday.

As for whether Romney supports a congressional cognitive test? He laughs it off.

“I’m not interested in testing my colleagues — I know which ones are nuts already,” Romney laughed.

Haley’s proposal is ageist, according to another septuagenarian, Sen. Risch (R-ID). Young lawmakers are often crazy — if not crazier — than their slow-moving elders.

“Everybody should get a mental test — not just at 75. I saw some people come in here at a very young age who I would much rather see tested,” Risch told Raw Story — smiling but serious — on a brief elevator ride up to the Senate floor.

“You’re tongue and cheek now — but you’re also a little serious?” Raw Story asked.

“Yeah. Yeah. Clearly,” Risch said. “If they want to do it for one, they should do it for all.”

There’s a problem with Haley’s proposal, according to the 79-year-old: It likely can’t pass constitutional muster.

“Probably not,” Risch continued. “Certainly somebody would challenge it, I’m sure.”

Other septuagenarian senators are puzzled too.

“I'm going to have to go think about that,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) — who turns 72 in a few months — told Raw Story while riding a tram to the Capitol. “Interesting question as to whether that could be done. I don’t know the answer. That’s a good question.”

At 89, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are the two oldest lawmakers in Congress. Grassley’s a self-proclaimed “push-up pro” who still plows his Iowa corn fields himself, but this month he’s been pushed around the Capitol in a wheelchair while recovering from hip surgery.

Grassley ad presents 88-year-old as a 'push-up pro' and 'runner' www.youtube.com

Feinstein’s in a league of her own. Earlier this year the six-term senator was passed up to be the president pro tempore of the Senate, which is third in line for the presidency.

That position traditionally goes to the oldest senator of the majority party, but, this Congress, Democrats went a different route, bypassing Sen. Feinstein and the other octogenarian in the Democratic caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for that all-important position. The party also bypassed 15 septuagenarians in their ranks and tapped 72-year-old Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state to serve as the Senate’s president pro tempore.

Feinstein’s mental capabilities have been questioned in recent years, including by her hometown paper, The San Francisco Chronicle whose reporting last year led them to ask, “Is Dianne Feinstein mentally unfit to serve?” She’s struggled to remember even her own legislative proposals and accomplishments. Unconfirmed rumors of dementia are now whispered by Senate staffers, the congressional press corps, and even some of her colleagues.

Just this week, Feinstein’s staff announced she won’t seek reelection in 2024. Within an hour of the announcement, Feinstein contradicted her staff in an exclusive interview with Raw Story.

"Oh, no, I'm not announcing anything. I will one day," Feinstein told Raw Story, which she repeated to another reporter before her staff interjected.

“You put out the statement?” Feinstein asked her aide. “I should have known they put it out.”

Fading — or faded — memories aside, Feinstein was quick to call Nikki Haley’s bluff: She’d run laps around any mental health “test.”

“I don't have a problem with it,” Feinstein told Raw Story while walking to a vote Thursday.

“You’d embrace it?”

“No,” Feinstein — who turns 90 in June — replied. “But I don’t have a problem with it.”

Besides accumulating millions of loyal California fans over the years, Feinstein’s got her defenders — and they’re from all sides of today’s great political divide.

“I have worked with her and have found her to be engaged and up to speed, but those who are more closely associated with her … would probably be more capable of making that assessment,” Romney said when asked about the rumors. “But I'm not going to weigh in on her. She's a colleague that I respect.”

Haley’s proposal also extends to the House, which is home to 36 representatives 75 or older who’d be examined under the plan.

House members are younger in this 118th Congress than they were in the 117th — the median age lowering from 58.9 to 57.9 — even as, according to the Pew Research Center, the median age of senators rose slightly — moving from 64.8 years old to 65.3 years old.


Insider’s “Red, White, and Gray” project similarly found a rapid aging of the federal judiciary and widespread concerns among Democratic and Republican voters alike about a federal government overall that’s increasingly aged.

With so many lawmakers now eligible for Medicare, younger members welcome Haley’s new idea.

“Sounds fine to me,” Hawley — who at 43 is a relative child, in Senate terms — replied.

“Have you ever thought some other lawmakers — your coworkers — are missing a few up there?” Raw Story asked.

“No comment,” Hawley — who got bumped to 4th youngest after Sens. Katie Britt (40) and J.D. Vance (38) joined Jon Ossoff (35) at the Senate version of the kid’s table this session — replied as elevator doors slid shut. “No comment.”

It’s not just the Capitol. Age has also been an issue just down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Earlier Thursday, President Joe Biden underwent a routine physical at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now 80 years old, he’s laughed off by the far-right who paint him a dementia-ridden fogey.

The president’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, begs to differ. While he’s still awaiting a biopsy they ran on Biden, O’Connor reports the president is “healthy,” “vigorous,” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.”

While Republicans mock Biden’s mind — especially his momentary memory lapses — many say an age test administered by federal bureaucrats isn’t the answer.

“I don't think you'd turn the decision about who you have in office representing you to somebody other than the voters,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) — who turns 69 in May — complained of Haley’s proposal to Raw Story while waiting for a tram under the Capitol.

Moran’s not alone.

“I never judge another elected official, because that's really the job of their constituents. Not mine,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), now 75, told Raw Story while walking alongside the Capitol tram.

Haley may be thinking too small with her focus on 75+ lawmakers.

“It should be 55!” Manchin replied.

“So you’d gladly take that test?”

“Oh, happy to,” Manchin — who’s still weighing whether or not to run again in 2024 — replied. “Maybe they’d send me home!”