The Hill: Generation-Y lawmakers form new caucus for millennials
Sep 19, 2013
Rebecca Shabad and Emily Goodin
Generation-Y lawmakers form new caucus for millennials
Two of Congress’s youngest members launched a new caucus Wednesday focused on the nation's next generation.
The “Future Caucus,” announced by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), will work to develop “long-term solutions to issues facing America’s next generation,” the two said in an announcement.
The young lawmakers are partnering with the Millennial Action Project in the effort.
"We look at working on issues like energy, infrastructure and education, things we know that are important for our generation,” Schock said at the group’s inaugural event on Wednesday afternoon.
Millennial Action Project President Steven Olikara praised the two lawmakers for joining together to start the caucus.
"The first millennial in Congress and the youngest woman in Congress have come together to rally across party lines,” he said.
So far, Republican Rep. Todd Young (Ind.), and Democratic Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Joseph Kennedy (Mass.) and Patrick Murphy (Fla.) have joined the group.
Sinema, 37, joined the launch event Wednesday afternoon, saying that her generation of lawmakers “lives in a post-partisan age” that cares more about solving problems than “red or blue, or elephants or donkeys.”
The caucus would present a new image for the House, which is primarily made up of older, white males.
All the lawmakers in the “Future Caucus” are in their 30s and 40s. Freshman Rep. Murphy, at age 30, is the youngest member in Congress.
Schock joked, when asked about Congress’s image, that, “as an eventual old, white dude,” he felt their group could work on long-term planning and bipartisan cooperation on common issues.
Gabbard pointed out that in the House, it takes groups like theirs to get legislation moved in committee and on the floor. “With 435 members, everything is a numbers game when it comes down to it."
Both Schock and Gabbard shared a similar outlook, emphasizing repeatedly the importance of working together and building relationships in order to get legislation passed through Congress.
They also shared a microphone: When Gabbard’s went dead halfway through the event, Schock passed his over to her.
A study from The Institute of Politics at Harvard University, released earlier this year, found that millennials (those under the age of 30) have a cynical attitude toward government: Only 39 percent trust President Obama to do the right thing, compared to 44 percent in 2010. And only 18 percent trust Congress, as opposed to 25 percent in February 2010.
Schock, 31, was first elected to Congress in 2008 at the age of 27. At the time, he was one of four House lawmakers under the age of 40, Schock said in an interview with Gabbard on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday.
“I brought the average in the House of Representatives down to 59," he said. “That was the average age. … In January of this year, we swore in 40 members under the age of 40: 20 Republicans, 20 Democrats.”
There are actually 14 Democrats under the age of 40 in the 113th Congress and 20 Republicans. The constitution requires a person to be at least 25 years old to run for the lower chamber.
The average age of House members is 57 years old, with 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) being the oldest member.
And the average length of service for representatives at the beginning of this session was 9.1 years (4.6 terms), according to a Congressional Research Survey study published by Federation of American Scientists.
Gabbard, 32, became the youngest female in Congress when she was elected last year. She’s also the first Hindu, first lawmaker of Samoan ancestry and one of the first two female combat veterans in Congress. Gabbard fought in the Iraq War.
“Clearly there is a frustration with the lack of action in Congress,” Gabbard said on “Morning Joe.” “We collectively feel a great deal of impatience in wanting to get results, in wanting to get things done and an unwillingness to accept ‘no’ for an answer.”
She said she and Schock have developed a friendship through occasional morning workouts together.
Asked whether Congress being too old is a reason for young people’s indifference to Washington, Gabbard jokingly said, “I would never say such a thing.”
“I would,” Schock interjected.
“I think if you put the 40 of us in a room and lock the door,” Schock said, “we could come out with solutions that would pass the House and the Senate.”