be a senator
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

Photo: Flickr

Resolution Introduced to Senate to Support World Tuberculosis Day
On March 19th, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced S.Res. 437 to the Senate, which is a resolution that seeks to affirm the U.S. fight against tuberculosis and guarantee support of World Tuberculosis Day, while also trying to increase general awareness of the disease.

Extent of Tuberculosis

The resolution shares several alarming statistics about tuberculosis from 2016, and the extent to which the disease affected people that year:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) assessed that 10.4 million became infected with tuberculosis.
  • Around 1.7 million people lost their lives that year due to the illness.
  • Around the world, one million children became infected with the disease, and 250,000 lost their lives because of it.
  • Among HIV-negative people, tuberculosis was believed to cause 80 percent of deaths in both Africa and South Asia, and 33 percent of deaths occurred in India.
  • Currently, the resolution states that a quarter of the world’s entire population is infected with tuberculosis.

In an article about World Tuberculosis Day 2018, WHO stated that tuberculosis is the most prevalent in people who live in poverty, marginalized communities and otherwise vulnerable groups.

Goals for World Tuberculosis Day

The introduction of this resolution to the Senate indicates that the U.S. will continue its efforts to fight against the disease. The resolution has three specific aims:

  • To support World Tuberculosis Day and continue to raise awareness about the disease.
  • To applaud the efforts of various organizations to fight against tuberculosis; for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  • A general goal to increase the role of the U.S. as a leader in the fight against the disease, and to continue to improve the overall global response to this issue.

The U.S. has already made an important impact in fighting tuberculosis: “USAID remains committed to saving millions of lives by ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030,” wrote USAID Administrator Mark Green in a statement released on World Tuberculosis Day.

United State’s Role in Fighting the Disease

Green also pointed out in his statement that the effects of tuberculosis are not just physical. It is also harmful in terms of a country’s economy, because those affected by the disease can lose three to four months of work, and subsequently over one-fourth of their income while fighting the disease.

The Senate resolution notes that USAID currently assists 23 countries with high rates of tuberculosis by providing support in the form of financial and technical aid. This aid is used to pursue the creation of new tools to both detect and treat the disease; it is also applied towards research for vaccines.

A Goal of Eradication

Since 2000, the assistance and funding from USAID and the U.S. more broadly has resulted in a decrease in the incidence of tuberculosis by one-fifth. However, despite the progress being made to eliminate the disease, the high rates of infection and death among people living in poverty makes tuberculosis the top infectious-disease that leads to death around the world.

This resolution is an important declaration that the U.S. will continue to raise awareness of tuberculosis, and pursue the ultimate goal of permanently eradicating the disease.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 Introduced in SenateSenator Ben Cardin (D-MD) launched the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 in June 2017. This bill would require a report from the United States on the accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Syria by the Syrian government.

Syria’s ongoing conflict has lasted over six years as of the year 2017. The war crimes committed in the nation have caused over 4,900,000 citizens to flee to neighboring countries, with another 600,000 living under siege. Evidence has been collected by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) declaring that the Syrian government has “committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforce disappearance and other inhuman acts.”

Furthermore, a report from 2016 stated that the Syrian government forces used chemicals in an attack in Idlib in 2015 in violation of a pact. The United States and Russia made an agreement requiring Syria to dispose of all chemical weapons to prevent further harm to the Syrian people. Because of these accounts, at least 12 other countries have requested assistance in investigating the ongoing conflict in Syria in order to prevent further war crimes.

Congress has taken initiative, urging all parties in the conflict to halt attacks on civilians and provide the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance in order to end the siege on all peoples. This is a result of another document reporting that, in February alone, the Syrian government prevented 80,000 medical treatment items from going into besieged areas. Syrian citizens now rely on interference from the United States to help provide for humanitarian needs.

Although Congress cannot prevent these sieges from affecting the Syrian people as of right now, the United States has taken action by accepting approximately 12,500 refugees from Syria with the goal of resettlement. This number exceeds the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians, a huge accomplishment in itself.

The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 would ensure a report is submitted to the appropriate congressional committees reporting on the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and would not cease until the Secretary of State determined that the violence in Syria has ceased. It would also ensure that USAID, the Department of Defense and other programs within the government are held accountable for their participation in the war crimes that are occurring in Syria.

The United States is the world’s largest donor to the Syrian humanitarian response, donating a total of $5.9 billion. However, the passing of this bill would allow the United States to assist much more in the well-being of the Syrian people. The next step for the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017, since it has already passed the Senate, is to pass through the House of Representatives.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

qualifications to become a senator

The legislative branch of the U.S. government, known as Congress, is made up of two different chambers. The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, is made up of 435 representatives who are also called Congressmen and Congresswomen. The number of Congressmen and Congresswomen in the House of Representatives is determined by the population in each congressional district.

The upper chamber, the Senate, is made up of 100 senators. Each state elects only two senators to ensure each state has equal representation. The Senate is meant to be the check to the House of Representatives.

Many people who wish to make a difference in their communities and country would wish to run for a political office, such as senate. However many ask, what are the qualifications to become a senator?


Age Requirement

Despite being the least known of the qualifications to become a senator, any person wanting to run for Senate must be at least 30 years old. This rule has been in place since the conception of the Senate with the creation of the constitution in 1787. However, in our history, the United States has had a couple of noticeable exceptions — the youngest senator to ever serve was Senator John Henry Eaton of Tennessee who was sworn in on November 17, 1818.

Senator Eaton was only 28 years old at the time, but due to inefficient birth records, this fact was not realized until after he took the oath. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware was the youngest to be sworn in while still aligning with all the qualifications to become a senator; when he was sworn in on January 1973, Senator Biden was 30 years old and 45 days.


United States Citizenship

To become a senator, a candidate must be a United States citizen for at least nine years. In this sense, they must be a legalized citizen but they can be from any other country in the world.

Some United States senators who were not born in the United States include Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet who was born in India, Texan Senator Ted Cruz who was born in Canada and Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois who was born in Thailand.


Which State to Represent

When a person runs for Senate, they run for a certain state, such as Senator of Indiana or Senator of Florida. He or she must live in the state that they run for, not necessarily the state they were born in. For example, Former president and Senator Barack Obama was born in Hawaii but campaigned for Senate in the state of Illinois, where he was currently living.

There is no set amount of time that a person must live in the state he or she wishes to represent before running for Senate, just that the candidate must be a legal resident of that state.


Making a Difference

These constitutional requirements answer the question: “What are the qualifications to become a senator?” Many citizens who have run for Congress in the past have studied law, political science and public service, though a degree is not required. Also, many Congressmen and Congresswomen have military experience, though this is not required either.

These are some of the answers to the question of “what are the qualifications to become a senator?” Anyone who fits these qualifications can legally run for Senate in the United States and have the possibility to make a difference in their communities and the country as a whole.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr


Read: How many Senators are there


How Old Do You Have to Be to Run for Congress?How old do you have to be to run for Congress? To hold a seat in the U.S. Senate, the youngest a person can be is 30 years old. However, one does not have to be 30 years old in order to run for Senate as long as they are 30 years old by the time that they are sworn in. For example, Joe Biden was 29 years old when he ran and was elected as a senator of Delaware.

Despite the fact that Biden was extremely young when he first took office in the Senate, he is only the fifth-youngest senator in U.S. history. The youngest senator in U.S. history is John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, who was 28 years old when he became a senator. Though Eaton was elected after the age requirement for the Senate was established in 1787, birth records were poorly kept during this time so it was much harder to guarantee that all candidates were of age.

The age requirement for the Senate was debated after establishing the age requirement for the House of Representatives, which was originally 21 years old, or the voting age at the time. The age was later increased to 25 years old after a move by George Mason of Virginia, who claimed that to hold a seat in the House, one should have time to get his or her own affairs in order before trying to manage a nation. This fact helps to answer the question “how old do you have to be to run for Congress?”

However, the age requirement for the House remained lower than many other positions because the founders wanted this legislative chamber to be closer to the people than any other chamber. Due to this desire, the founders were a lot less restrictive when establishing the requirements for the House. The restriction on age for the Senate is different because the founders felt that the greater responsibilities of Senators required those in office to have more knowledge and greater character stability than Representatives.

While Eaton was the youngest Senator in US history at 28 years old, William Charles Claiborne, also from Tennessee, was the youngest Representative ever. Claiborne, born in 1775, was 22 when he was elected as a Representative. Claiborne was later elected again, at age 24, while he still did not meet the age requirement.

Though the U.S. has elected quite a few Congressmen who are under the age requirement, this trend has not continued, as the average age of a U.S. Senator is 60 years old. However, some young people who have run for Congress recently are trying to encourage more young people to run for office and get more involved in politics.

“How old do you have to be to run for Congress?” was a question that went through the mind of Erin Schrode. Schrode, a woman from Marin County, California, began a campaign for Congress when she was only 24. Schrode did not win the 2016 election for House of Representatives, but if she had, she would have been the youngest ever Congresswoman. This title is currently held by Elise Stefanik, who was 30 years old when she was elected to be a Representative in 2014.

Schrode claims that she never intended to get involved in politics, but after seeing her mother’s dedication to her work towards combating skyrocketing cancer rates, Schrode developed a passion for politics. She believes that more young people should run for Congress because 35 percent of the U.S. population is under the age of 30, but people under 30 rarely hold Congressional seats.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Earlier this month, the U.S. State and Foreign Operations Senate Subcommittee held a hearing on global health. The purpose of this hearing was to determine the role of U.S. leadership in the global health community as well as the type of approach it should take.

During the hearing, Grammy award-winning founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Sir Elton John, and NY Times best-selling author and controversial California pastor, Dr. Rick Warren, voiced their opinions on the subject. Although these men are of different sexual orientations and come from different areas of the world, both are dedicated to eliminating preventable diseases that seem to be caused by extreme poverty.

At the hearing, Dr. Warren urged the Senate to approach the global health epidemic with new eyes. By highlighting the fact that a minimal amount of the national budget goes to foreign assistance, Dr. Warren told lawmakers to cultivate “the right kind of foreign assistance” so terrorism will be deterred for the next generation in a cost-effective manner.

Dr. Warren also encouraged the Senate to forge a new partnership with NGOs and religious organizations so that less stable countries can be guaranteed a continuous support system until these preventable diseases are eradicated from the Earth.

With 1 percent of the national budget going to foreign aid, Dr. Warren argues that more could be allotted to foreign aid so that the U.S. could better cultivate relations with foreign countries by changing its approach to funding. So often, the U.S. fails to provide long-lasting and substantial aid to foreign countries. By respecting the “culture and history of the country it aims to support” and targeting “the upstream causes of ill-health” like poverty, the U.S. can change its approach and make a greater impact.

While Dr. Warren highlighted a different approach to solving the problem of global health, Sir Elton John focused on a specific disease to which he feels personally connected.

Motivated by the despair he saw many sub-Saharan Africans suffering through, Sir John provided a “dignified death to more than 800,000 men, women, and children” as well as food, shelter and education to orphans.

Since the 1990s, Sir Elton John has focused on helping Africans grapple with the effects of HIV/AIDS. This disease that can be transmitted with the exchange of bodily fluids is rampant throughout the African continent due to impoverished conditions in communities.

At the hearing, John urged world leaders to de-stigmatize AIDS. Historically, HIV/AIDS has been seen by mainstream citizens as a part of the LGBTQI community. Because of that, many leaders view this disease as preventable by nature of sexual orientation. This stigmatizes those with the disease and makes it difficult to get proper treatment and preventable measures.

– Erin Logan
Sources: C-SPAN,
Photo: ABCNews

The Senate Appropriations Committee first formed in March of 1867 in order to reduce the labor hours needed for the combined tasks of tax writing and appropriations. The Senate Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over all spending legislation in the U.S. Here are some quick facts about the committee:

      • There are a total of 30 members on the Senate Appropriations Committee; 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
      • There are 12 subcommittees, each assigned a unique category ranging from Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies to Defense.
      • Senator Thad Cochran from Mississippi is the Chairman of the Committee.
      • Barbara A. Mikulski is the Vice Chairman of the Committee. She was the first woman to ever be appointed to this position (Dec. 2012).
      • Anyone can attend the committee hearings, but only if it is an open hearing, which is the majority of the time.
      • The Senate Appropriations Committee is the largest committee in the U.S. Senate.
      • When the country is in a crisis and needs emergency expenses, the Senate Appropriations Committee can pass supplemental spending bills in order to alleviate the crisis.
      • Each subcommittee must operate within the budget that the full committee states, but this can be waived if enough votes are collected in order to increase the budget.
      • All hearings can be watched and listened to through the webcasts that are uploaded to the Senate Appropriations Committee website:
      • The State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee deals with situations similar to what The Borgen Project deals with. Programs like the Peace Corps, the African Development Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and more are found in this subcommittee.

Erik Nelson

Sources: Committee on Appropriations 1, Committee on Appropriations 2, Committee on Appropriations 3, Thad Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Last year, United States President Barack Obama announced the Power Africa initiative to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. This was largely due to the fact that 600 million people in this region, 70 percent of the population, lives without electricity. His initiative aims to double the number of people with access to power by unlocking the substantial natural gas and renewable energy potential that Africa’s climate is suited to deliver.

By bringing together governments of African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to start, the Power Africa will add more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of efficient cost effective and sustainable electricity generation capacity. By the year 2020, it hopes to connect 20 million new households to electricity and provide commercial industry with electrical power solutions.

On March 27, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs held a hearing titled Powering Africa’s Future: Examining the Power Africa Initiative. With testimony from organizations like U.S. Agency for International Development, Export Import Bank of the United States, Symbion Power, General Electric, The ONE Campaign and others, Congress got an update on the Power Africa initiative.

Working with private companies, USAID has already brokered deals between African governments and private industry that will secure 25 percent of the 10,000 MW goal. Private industry has so far stepped up to commit $2 for every $1 spent by the U.S. government, accounting for $14 billion. Power Africa uses its expansive network and technical expertise to bring together investors, governments, and businesses to facilitate learning and build transactional capacity.

A significant project born out of this collaboration is the Corbetti geothermal project in Ethiopia. The Power Africa base has worked with the Ethiopian government and Reykjavik Geothermal, the company developing the project. The project will generate up to 1,000 MW of renewable energy. This project created further interest in geothermal projects in a region capable of producing up to 15,000 MW of clean power.

In Tanzania, Power Africa teamed up with Kiwari to develop a 10 MW hydropower project. Through a project with Cummins, Kenya launched a 10 MW biomass project that uses mesquite wood as feedstock for its generator. Cummins hopes to expand its biomass projects throughout other nations in Africa.

The ONE Campaign used this opportunity to highlight the Electrify Africa Act, which they say will produce 20 gigawatts of new power using no additional appropriations from the U.S. government.

Power Africa is a great initiative that connects the U.S. with African nations. It spurs economic opportunity for U.S. and local African companies and gives millions of Africans reliable, sustainable power. The participating governments in Africa get to develop projects that they can be proud of and that will uplift their people.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: U.S. Senate, U.S. Senate, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post

On November 14, the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee approved the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act introduced by Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Rubio (R-FL). The bill aims to promote foreign aid transparency by monitoring and disclosing program data to the government. This effort has been widely supported among Congress, but some government agencies are worried that the evaluation process will harm security sensitive sector assistance programs.

The Foreign Relations Committee has addressed this issue by revising the bill to allow sensitive programs to be exempt as long as the government is still making an effort to increase foreign aid transparency. Now that the bill has passed the committee, it will be brought onto the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) has introduced a similar bill, H.R. 2638, in the House Foreign Relations Committee. This bill is expected to pass as well as Representative Poe has proposed a similar bill in the past that passed unanimously.

This bill has received support from various organizations including The Borgen Project and U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). Liz Schrayer, executive director of the USGLC, praised Senators Cardin and Rubio for proposing a bill that “builds on the important reforms being undertaken by USAID and those modeled by the Millennium Challenge Corporation to ensure the highest standards for transparency and results from international affairs programs.” The Senate bill will be brought to the floor soon and is expected to pass.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: Devex, USGLC
Photo: Fox

How to Find Your Members of Congress
Democracy is a wonderful thing. Any U.S. citizen, no matter their level of education, age, race, or social standing can call up their members of Congress and request that they vote in favor of or against specific legislation or simply a topic they feel is important.

So why don’t more people contact their representatives? Excellent question. Skepticism? The intangibility of the benefits perhaps? Whatever the reason, it remains clear that not enough people are taking advantage of this excellent tool of democracy. We at The Borgen Project think that needs to change. And that change starts with you. So, to help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how the U.S Congress works.

So What Exactly Is Congress?

Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 100 senators make up the Senate, 2 from each state. The House of Representatives currently has 435 members and the population determines the number of representatives per state. For example, Alaska has only 1 representative while the state of Texas has over 30.

This means that 3 people represent you in congress, 2 state senators and 1 representative.

And, There’s an App for That

Contacting your representatives seriously can’t get any easier if you have a smartphone. A free app is available for the iPhone called “Contact Congress”. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and hit the “use my location button”. Your 3 representatives will pop up on your screen. You can call each one from the app without ever looking anything up or dialing the numbers. You can also share your activity on Facebook and Twitter so everyone will know how gosh darn cool you are for calling your reps. You know you want to.

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear. Check out The Borgen Project website to find your representatives via your area code.

Once you’ve figured out who your reps are, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards making sure those who represent you are in fact, representing how you feel about certain issues and bills.

Great, so now what?

Call them! Yes, pick up that thing that plays music and updates your twitter and….(gasp) dial some digits. (or tap on the faces if you have the app) It will feel strange to talk to a real human but don’t be dismayed. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please increase funding for USAID.” Or, “Please vote to increase funding for global poverty-related legislation”. That’s it. You can call anytime you want, just be sure to leave a message if it’s after business hours.

The person taking the call will make note of your call. This is the important part! The aide will tally the number of calls on certain issues and often times the representative will decide how they vote based on the calls they get from people like you and me. If constituents don’t call requesting global poverty be on their radar, it probably won’t be, particularly in our current political environment. For example, some of the issues currently listed on my representatives’ web pages include the following- jobs, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform and healthcare. Not ONE mention of global poverty from any of my 3 reps. Where my BP supporters at?

Still not convinced? It’s simple. One 30-second phone call a week is the easiest way to make a difference in fighting global poverty. It takes almost no time and costs next to nothing (much less than donating to a cause or volunteering your time).

For more detailed information regarding your leaders in Congress, this website is a pretty handy tool. You can look up your members of Congress and their voting records as well as bills that are on the docket for the coming week. Stalk your congressional leaders with ease! And don’t forget to call them.

– Erin Ponsonby

Sources: The Borgen Project, U.S. Senate,
Photo:America Bikes