Congress has just passed a law moving up the date of mandatory retirement from 65 to 70. Excluded from mandatory retirement is Congress itself, and representatives and senators can serve as long as they can get elected.
A friend of mine, who worked on the retirement bill, explained who the congressional waiver was inserted into the law.
"It was mostly done," he said "to accommodate the members of the Joint Congressional Compromise Committee on Energy who are trying to work out amutually agreeable solution on the energy bill."
"I don't follow you."
"Well, we don't expect the House and Senate to reach a compromise for years. Many of the conferees are in their 40s and 50s now, and it would be a pity to make them quit working on the compromise when they reach 70."
"You figure it's going to take that long for Congress to produce an energy bill?"
"It might be shorter or it might be longer. you can't pass something this complicated in one administration. Right now we have 17 senators and 25 House members meeting every day to work out the gas deregulation problems. We're hoping they'll reach an agreement by 1990."
"But it's President Carter's energy bill. He might not be President by the time it's sent to the White House."
"I'm sure who ever is president will invite him back to witness the signing of the bill," my friend told me.
"Is 1990 the cutoff date on a gas deregulation compromise?"
"There is no cutoff date on anagreement about gas deregulation. We're just hoping that if men of good will work from now until then, they will come up with a solution which will satify everybody. If they don't the compromise committee may still be in session when we enter the 21st century."
"Many of the conferees will be quite old by then' I said.
"That's true, but it would be unfair to force them into retirement when they've lived with the bill so long. You don't want to being new faces on to the committee who are not familiar with the issues."
"What happens if a senator or congressman on the compromise committee decides not to run?"
"Then he will have to be replaced. But most of the committee members enjoy the give and take on gas deregulation so much that it's doubtful they would give up a chance to play such an important role in the energy future of the country."
"As they grow older won't the debate on gas dergulation take its toll physically on the members?"
"Oh, there may be a few who would become hard o hearing. But we don't worry about this because they've heard there arguments on both sides so many times that it won't matter if they don't hear them again. By their late 80s, even if they doze off they won't be missing much."
"Let's be optimistic for a moment," I said, "and suppose they reach a compromise by 1985. What will these people do then?"
He laughed "I dount if there is any chance of that. Even if they reach a compromise on gas deregulation by 1985, the energy bill will then have to go to the House-Senate Compromise Committee on Oil Taxation. Many of the same people will move over to that committee."
"I forgot about the Compromise Committee on Oil Taxation," I admitted
"Most people have, and that's why they expect an energy bill overnight."