Back to Basics: Congress

✌🏼out to my third semester of medical school & the 2019 Congressional session.

Not to worry, both will be back in full force in January!

Before I head for my vacation in the Conch Republic, I want to drop a basic civics lesson.

The basic of all basics – Congress refers to our bicameral (two chamber) legislature, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is one of three branches of government. It writes the laws and controls the money.


There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, each representing a Congressional district determined by population measured in the U.S. Census. There are also 6 non-voting delegates that represent D.C. and U.S. territories.

  • Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets 3 qualifications for representatives: be at least 25 years old, be a U.S. citizen for the past 7 years, be an inhabitant of the state they represent.
  • They each serve a 2 year term, and the entire House is elected every 2 years. There are currently 4 vacant seats.
  • The top leadership position is the Speaker of the House, a member of the majority party. It is currently Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The Minority Leader is the top position of the minority party. It is currently Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).


There are 100 Senators, two from each state, regardless of population size. DC does not have a Senator.

  • Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution sets 3 qualifications for Senators: be at least 30 years old, be a U.S. citizen for the past 9 years, be an inhabitant of the state they seek to represent. 
  • They serve a 6 year term; they are elected in a staggered manner, such that one-third of seats are up for election every 2 years.
  • The Vice President is the President of the Senate, but in modern times often only presides over the Senate when they need to cast a tie-breaking vote. The Majority Leader of the Senate is similar to the House Speaker. It is currently Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The top minority position is Minority Leader. It is currently Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

When Congress returns in January 2020, it will be for the second session of the 116th Congress. Each Congress lasts for two years.

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