Octogenarian Bernie Sanders stays mum on 2024 Senate plans

DC: Senator Bernie Sanders Meets with President Biden
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to reporters in front of the West Wing after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on August 30, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images) Samuel Corum/Sipa USA/Sipa USA via AP

Octogenarian Bernie Sanders stays mum on 2024 Senate plans

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The age of octogenarian Bernie Sanders (I-VT) looms over the question of whether he will run for a fourth term in the Senate next year.

With Senate Democrats defending a two-seat majority, all eyes are on Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), whose decisions could very well determine whether Republicans retake the chamber. But they aren’t the only ones who have yet to signal their 2024 plans — Sanders, who represents deep blue Vermont, has not announced either.


The soon-to-be 82-year-old independent, who caucuses with the Democrats, doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Sanders is the chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, giving him broad jurisdiction over concerns at the center of his previous campaigns, such as workers’ rights, the cost of prescription drugs, and access to healthcare.

However, the senator has been evasive about whether he will run again, making some wonder whether this term in the Senate could be his last.

“Look, the man is going to be 82 years old this week. He will be 89 by the end of his term if he decides to run in 2024,” a Democratic strategist speaking on condition of anonymity said. “I think he needs to think very carefully about his legacy, especially with what we’ve seen going on in the Senate with aging lawmakers.”

“Health can change really rapidly when a person is in their 80s, and everyone ages differently,” the operative added.

A debate about age and politics has been building for months and came to the forefront again last week when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared to freeze for 30 seconds while answering questions from reporters, the second such incident this summer. The 81-year-old was hospitalized earlier this year after suffering a fall that required him to complete physical therapy. He experienced a concussion and minor rib fracture that sidelined him from the Senate for nearly six weeks.

Also in the headlines earlier this spring was 90-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who returned to the Senate appearing disoriented and frail after a case of shingles resulted in serious complications, prompting calls for her resignation from fellow Democrats.

Sanders has had some health challenges of his own. In 2019, he experienced chest discomfort while at a campaign event in Nevada and later disclosed he had a heart attack. The senator had two stents inserted to open up a blocked artery in his heart, according to a statement from his doctors at the time.

“People will say Joe Biden is too old and then never mention the fact that Bernie Sanders is, in fact, older than he is,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. “There certainly is a very relevant conversation about age, and the idea of this sort of forever incumbency in politics — I think that’s forcing a conversation in both parties.”

“I think everyone weighs the value of institutional knowledge with the reality of age,” he added.

Those close to the senator believe he will eventually announce a run — he’s just not in any hurry. Vermont’s filing deadline isn’t until August of next year.

“I don’t personally have any specific knowledge, but I just don’t see him retiring after this term,” a former member of Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign said. “We all know he’s absolutely loving running the committee that’s about health and labor.”

“However, I do think it may be a different calculus for him if Democrats are in the minority and he no longer has the same influence and power that he currently does,” said the campaign member, who spoke on condition of anonymity as well. “I think that may be part of what he’s waiting on.”


For now, Sanders and his staff continue to fend off the reelection questions. The Vermont senator has made it clear to reporters who ask about it that he thinks the topic overall is a political distraction.

“The people of Vermont do not want never-ending campaigns,” Sanders spokesman Mike Casca said in a statement provided to PunchBowl News. “Sen. Sanders will make an announcement when it’s appropriate.”

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