The United States Congress is made up of two chambers: an upper chamber known as the Senate and a lower chamber known as the House of Representatives. This is modeled after the British Parliament bicameral (two chamber) system. In England, this system is composed of a House of Lords and a House of Commons.
Today, the United States Congress is made up of 100 senators and 435 representatives. That is two senators from each state and one representative from each of the 435 recognized congressional districts in the United States. Members of Congress are voted in by the public and serve a six-year term if elected to Senate and a two-year term if elected to the House of Representatives.
When one considers the history, size and power of the United States Congress, there are many questions that may come to mind. One common question asked is: how old do you have to be to be a senator? To answer this question, one can look to the United States Constitution for the answer.
The Constitution reads, “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” From this, one can see that the answer to the question of how old one must be to be a senator in the United States is a minimum of 30 years old.
Answering this question often leads to another question: why did the writers of the United States Constitution choose this age as opposed to other ages? In addition to the structure of the two chamber congress system, the framers of the Constitution also looked to England when trying to determine the details for what the requirements to be a member of Congress would be.
At the time of the writing of the United States Constitution, England’s law required members of Parliament to be a minimum of 21 years old. Though the United States did not adopt the same age requirement, the adoption of an age requirement at all was significant.
Ultimately, it was determined that one must be 25 years of age to be a representative in the House of Representatives, a number similar to England’s, and 30 years of age to be a senator. The answer to the question of why 30 is the age that was determined by the writers of the Constitution is addressed by James Madison in The Federalist, No. 62. Madison explained that because of Senate’s deliberative nature, the “senatorial trust,” called for a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than would be needed in the more democratic House of Representatives.
The United States Congress is a complex and integral part of the United States government. When determining the requirements to be a member of Congress, the framers of the Constitution had many factors to consider. Ultimately, they determined that as far as the requirement of age went, 30 was the appropriate age for a member of the Senate.
– Nicole Stout