What Are the Requirements to be a Senator

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S Senate is the upper chamber of the U.S Congress. Along with the House of Representatives, it constitutes the legislative branch of the federal system of the United States. The Constitution outlines the requirements to be a Senator clearly.

With two Senators from each state, the Senate counterbalances the House by granting every state equal representation regardless of population, size or economic importance. It also holds certain unique powers and responsibilities, such as the ability to approve treaties made by the executive branch with a two-thirds majority. Senators also serve longer, six-year terms, while congressmen must seek re-election every two years.

A position in the U.S Senate tends to carry more prestige than that of the position of House congressman, especially since Senators serve longer terms and represent larger constituencies. Sixteen of the presidents have previously served as U.S senators, and three — Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama — went directly from the upper legislative chamber to the presidency. The requirements to be a senator are slightly different than that of the House and of the top executive slot. They are outlined in the Constitution as follows:

  1. Must be at least 30 years old
    The Constitution clearly states that “No Person shall be a Senator who has not attained the age of thirty Years.” This requirement contrasts with that of the House, which requires a minimum age of 25, and that of the presidency at 35. In his essay The Federalist No. 62, James Madison explained the discrepancy between the age requirements to be a senator and to be a congressman. He wrote that “the nature of the senatorial trust” required a “greater extent of information and stability of character”, which was most likely — according to him — at an older age.
  2. Must have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years
    Unlike the presidency, the position of senator is available to foreign-born citizens. During the time of the Constitutional Convention, English law proclaimed that no member of parliament could have been born outside of the United Kingdom. The framers of the United States Constitution believed this requirement to be too strict. Thus, they reached a trade-off which would not exclude adopted citizens from the legislative process but would also not allow “indiscriminate and hasty admission of them.” Being elected to the U.S Senate, then, represents the highest federal position in government that a foreign-born citizen can achieve.
  3. Must be a resident of the state elected to represent
    The last portion of the clause that addresses the requirements to be a senator claims that “No Person shall be a Senator… who shall not when elected, be an Inhabitant of the State for which he shall be chosen.” The Senate has adopted the practice of allowing members to elect officials who have not reached the minimum age or years of citizenship after the election but prior to assuming office. Residency in the state, however, is a requirement even prior to the election.

Being a U.S Senator is one of the highest and most powerful positions in the U.S Government. The Senate deals closely with the president and has the final say on key pieces of legislation that affect the entire nation. Although the position might seem intimidating, the requirements for a seat in the Senate are not entirely exclusive or selective. It does not require previous government experience or any educational prerequisites. Contrary to what many might believe, a large portion of the U.S. population — if not close to a majority — is entirely eligible for one of the most important roles in government.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

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Alan Garcia-Ramos

Alan lives in Providence, RI. He was born in Venezuela, raised in Brazil, and is studying at Brown University. His academic interests include philosophy, politics, and economics. Alan has witnessed a coup d’etat, an impeachment, and several riots.

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