The House of Representatives is the first line of defense for legislation in the United States. Some may not consider the House to be as elite as the Senate, but there is no denying that it is vital to the legislative process. Nineteen former presidents once served in the House of Representatives, more than the 16 who served in the Senate. But what qualifies someone to be elected to this legislative body?
The House of Representatives includes 435 members, with population size determining the number of representatives a state receives. The qualifications for the House of Representatives are less stringent than those for the Senate and the presidency. This was purposely done to limit the obstacles for ordinary people to become members. There are three formal qualifications, which are outlined in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
The first qualification outlined in the Constitution states that members of the House must be at least 25 years old. Despite this, the youngest member of the House of Representatives, William Charles Cole Claiborne, was only 22 when elected and only 24 when he was elected for a second time. Currently, the youngest member of the House, Elise Stefanik, is 33 years old, exceeding the requirement by eight years.
The second qualification, like that of the Senate, deals with citizenship. The constitution states that members of the House of Representatives must have U.S. citizenship for seven years upon election. This allows citizens who were not born in the United States, which is required for the presidency, to be elected into the House, which is crucial to immigrant representation. However, the number of immigrants serving has decreased significantly since the 1960s.
As of 2015, only 407 past and present members of Congress had been born outside of the United States out of the more than 12,000 who had served. 347 of these members served in the House of Representatives. From 1967 to 1974, no immigrants served in either the House or the Senate.
The last of the qualifications for the House of Representatives concerns residency and is the same for those serving in the Senate. Those elected to the House must be residents of the state which they represent at the time of election. However, this qualification does not require that representatives live in the district they represent.
The same article of the Constitution which outlines these qualifications also includes how members will be elected. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years without term limits. In addition to this, the House must confirm members who are elected before they may take the Oath of Office.
The House of Representatives was modeled for the people. It was designed to be accessible as well as an integral part of the legislative process. In addition, the Speaker of the House remains a prominent political figure within the government. Every moving part within our government serves a purpose and without one the system simply could not work. These qualifications for the House of Representatives ensure that these parts continue to work to the absolute best of their ability.
– Megan Burtis