GOP Sen. Cassidy calls for yearly senility tests for aging US leaders

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said over the weekend that elderly officials in America’s three branches of government should undergo regular cognition tests — but insisted he did not have a particular person in mind when making the recommendation.

Cassidy, a 64-year-old gastroenterologist who was first elected to public office in 2006 and has been in Congress since 2009, told “Axios on HBO” Sunday night that aged members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and top Executive Branch officials should be evaluated each year to ensure they are still mentally sharp.

According to Cassidy, most people begin a “rapid decline” into dotage in their 80s.

“It’s usually noticeable,” he told host Mike Allen. “So anybody in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern. And I’m saying this as a doctor.”

Many of the most prominent figures in Washington are at least septuagenarians — including President Biden, who will turn 79 next month. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is 81, as is Senate president pro tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) — who is third in the line of presidential succession. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is 82, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 79, while Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a comparative spring chicken at the age of 70.

Cassidy's comments about the senility of older politicians comes a month before President Joe Biden turns 79.
Cassidy’s comments about the senility of older politicians comes a month before President Joe Biden turns 79.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

“I’m told that there have been senators in the past who, at the end of their Senate terms, were senile,” Cassidy said Sunday. “I’m told that was true of senators of both parties.”

The Supreme Court has gotten younger in recent years with the additions of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. However, three current justices are over the age of 70: Stephen Breyer, 83; Clarence Thomas, 73; and Samuel Alito, 71. In recent months, some progressives have pressed Breyer to step down from the bench to ensure Biden gets at least one Supreme Court pick during his term of office. Breyer has so far rebuffed those efforts.

There have been calls for 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down due to his age.
There have been calls for 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down due to his age.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File

In June, a handful of Republican lawmakers, led by former White House physician Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), called on Biden to take a cognitive function test and make the results public following a series of verbal stumbles during public events.

“The American people should have absolute confidence in their President,” the letter read in part. “They deserve to know that he or she can perform the duties of Head of State and Commander in Chief. They deserve full transparency on the mental capabilities of their highest elected leader.”

In May, the White House said Biden would undergo a regular physical exam at some point this year. However, they have not said whether he has done so, nor have they released the results of such an exam.

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