The U.S. Senate has 100 members, elected for six year terms in dual-seat constituencies, two from each state. One-third are renewed every two years. The group of the Senate seats that is up for election during a given year is known as a class. The three classes are staggered so that only one of the three groups is renewed every two years. Until the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, Senators were elected by state legislatures, not the electorate of states. The age of candidacy to be a Senator is 30.
Capitol Hill, where bills become laws.
111th US Senate class photo
A class photo of the 111th United States Senate.
The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members, elected for two year terms in single-seat constituencies. House of Representatives elections are held every two years on the first Tuesday after November 1 in even years, correlated with presidential elections. House elections are first-past-the-post elections that elect a Representative from each of 435 House districts which cover the United States. Special House elections can occur if a member dies or resigns during a term . The delegates of the territories of American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also elected. The age of candidacy to be a Representative is 25.
Barack Obama meets with Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer & George Miller
President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller, in the Oval Office Wednesday, May 13, 2009. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman, and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel also attended the meeting but are not in the photo.
Qualifications in the House
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for representatives. Each representative must (1) be at least twenty-five years old, (2) have been a citizen of the United States for the past seven years, and (3) be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they represent. Members are not required to live in the district they represent, but they traditionally do. The age and citizenship qualifications for representatives are less than those for senators. The constitutional requirements of Article I, Section 2 for election to Congress are the maximum requirements that can be imposed on a candidate. Therefore, Article I, Section 5, which permits each House to be the judge of the qualifications of its own members does not permit either House to establish additional qualifications. Likewise a State cannot establish additional qualifications.
Qualifications in the Senate
Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: (1) they must be at least 30 years old, (2) they must have been citizens of the United States for at least the past nine years, and (3) they must be inhabitants of the states they seek to represent at the time of their election. The age and citizenship qualifications for senators are more stringent than those for representatives. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison justified this arrangement by arguing that the "senatorial trust" called for a "greater extent of information and stability of character. "
The Senate is the sole judge of a senator's qualifications. During its early years, however, the Senate did not closely scrutinize the qualifications of its members. As a result, three senators who failed to meet the age qualification were nevertheless admitted to the Senate: Henry Clay (aged 29 in 1806), Armistead Thomson Mason (aged 28 in 1816), and John Eaton (aged 28 in 1818). Such an occurrence, however, has not been repeated since. In 1934, Rush D. Holt, Sr. was elected to the Senate at the age of 29; he waited until he turned 30 (on the following June 19) to take the oath of office. In 1972, Joe Biden was elected to the Senate shortly before his 30th birthday, but he reached his 30th birthday in time for the swearing-in ceremony for incoming senators in January 1973.
It is important to mention disqualification procedures in Congress. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, a federal or state officer who takes the requisite oath to support the Constitution, but later engages in rebellion or aids the enemies of the United States, is disqualified from becoming a representative. This post-Civil War provision was intended to prevent those who sided with the Confederacy from serving. However, disqualified individuals may serve if they gain the consent of two-thirds of both houses of Congress.