SEATTLE — Congress is made up of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. These two bodies together are also known as the legislative branch of government. The Senate is the more deliberative legislative body and it serves as a check on the executive and judicial branches. Additionally, the Senate has the sole power to review and debate bills, treaties and proposed legislation and to provide oversight to the president’s administration. Their primary obligation is to represent the interests of each state in the political process, whereas the House of Representatives is designed to represent the interests of the people.
The Senate is composed of two senators from each state. A senator’s term of office is six years, and they may be reelected indefinitely. One-third of the total membership of the Senate is elected every two years. Today, senators are chosen by popular election, as provided for in the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, and there are only three qualifications that must be met: age, citizenship and inhabitancy.
A senator must be:
- At least 30 years old
- A nine-year U.S. citizen
- A resident of the state from which he is chosen to represent
Aside from these three requirements, there are no set rules on how to become a senator. However, there are a number of factors that may improve one’s chances of becoming a senator.
It is important to have a solid educational background, as 100 percent of senators hold at least a bachelor’s degree. A majority of senators attain a higher degree: 21 hold a master’s degree as their highest attained degree, 55 hold law degrees, 2 hold doctoral degrees and 3 hold medical degrees.
One’s occupation most likely will not make or break his/her run for the Senate, but there are some trends that should be recognized. In the 115th Congress, law predominates as the declared profession with 50 senators, followed by public service and politics with 44 senators, business with 29 senators and education with 20 senators.
Most senators don’t run for the Senate without previously serving in another type of public office or being well-known in the community. Half of the current senators (50) in the 115th Congress have had prior experience serving in the House of Representatives. Additionally, 44 have previously served as state or territorial legislators, 18 have previously served as congressional staffers, 10 have previously served as state governors and eight have previously served as mayors.
Gaining the support of a political party can bolster any Senate run. Additionally, when it comes time to file for candidacy with the state’s Secretary of State, a candidate must obtain a minimum number of signatures from voters who are registered in his/her party in order to be put on the ballot. The minimum number varies by state.
Aside from the Constitutional requirement, age plays a major role in a Senate run. The oldest senator in the 115th Congress is 83 years old and the youngest is 39. The median age of sitting senators in the 115th Congress is 61 years old, and the median age of newly elected senators in the 115th Congress is 54 years old.
A lot of planning goes into running for the Senate, and campaigning may be among the most important. If a candidate accomplishes all of the above recommendations, the groundwork for a quality campaign is already set. All that is left is for the candidate to do his/her best to share the ideas and values of the campaign and hope that a majority of the state agrees.
The famous oath that reads: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God” isn’t just for the United States President. When the new term of office begins, senators-elect take this same oath of office in an open session of the Senate.
Now that you know how to become a senator, start thinking about what poverty-focused legislation you would introduce!
– Jamie Enright