term length for house of representatives

term length for house of representatives

term length for house of representatives

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United States House of Representatives

The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States.

The House’s composition was established by Article One of the United States Constitution. The House is composed of representatives who sit in congressional districts allocated to each state on a basis of population as measured by the U.S. Census, with each district having one representative, provided that each state is entitled to at least one.

1789

Since its inception in 1789, all representatives have been directly elected. As of 2021, the number of voting representatives is fixed by law at 435.[1] If enacted, the DC Admission Act would permanently increase the number of representatives to 436.[2] In addition, there are currently six non-voting members, bringing the total membership of the House of Representatives to 441[3] or fewer with vacancies. As of the 2010 Census, the largest delegation was that of California, with 53 representatives. Seven states have only one representative: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.[4]

The House is charged with the passage of federal legislation, known as bills; those of which that are also passed by the Senate are sent to the president for consideration. The House also has exclusive powers: it initiates all revenue bills, impeaches federal officers, and elects the president if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College.[5][6]

term length for house of representatives
term length for house of representatives

The House meets in the south wing of the United States Capitol. The presiding officer is the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the members thereof. The Speaker and other floor leaders are chosen by the Democratic Caucus or the Republican Conference, depending on whichever party has more voting members.

Term limits in the United States

In the United States, term limits, also referred to as rotation in office, restrict the number of terms of office an officeholder may serve. At the federal level, the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the president of the United States to two four-year terms. State government offices in some, but not all states, term-limited, including for executive, legislative, and judicial office.
States are represented in the House of Representatives in approximate proportion to their populations, with every state guaranteed at least one seat. There are currently 435 voting representatives. Five delegates and one resident commissioner serve as non-voting members of the House, although they can vote in committee. Representatives must be 25 years old and must have been U.S. citizens for at least 7 years. Representatives serve 2-year terms.

Interaction Between the House and Senate

Read up on the relationship between the two chambers with these essays by the Senate Historian’s Office.

Joint Rules of the House and Senate, April 15, 1789

House Member Introduces Resolution to Abolish the Senate, April 27, 1911

How long do members of Congress’ terms last?

Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and considered for reelection every even year. Senators however, serve six-year terms and elections to the Senate staggered over even years so that only about 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection during any election.

How many members of Congress come from each state?

Each state sends two Senators to represent their state in the U.S. Senate. However, in the House of Representatives, a state’s representation is based on its population.  For example, smaller states like Vermont and Delaware have one representative while large states like California have 53 representatives.

Currently, the Michigan Congressional Delegation composed of 14 representatives in the House and two Senators in the U.S. Senate.

How many people do congressmen and senators represent?

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives each represent a portion of their state known as a Congressional District, which averages 700,000 people. Senators however, represent the entire state.

What kind of retirement plan do Members of Congress have?

Members of Congress who elected after 1984 automatically enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). For more information on FERS, please visit the FERS handbook for details.

What kind of health care do Members of Congress receive?

As written into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, P.L. 111-205), on January 1, 2014, Members of Congress no longer eligible for health plans offered to federal government employees.  They instead must enroll in the District of Columbia’s Health Exchange in order to obtain employment related health plan coverage. 

term length for house of representatives
term length for house of representatives

The length of terms of state representatives in the 49 American lower chambers is either two years or four years.

Representatives in five states (Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and North Dakota) have a four-year term. Representatives in 44 states have a two-year term.

In contrast, term lengths of state senators are generally longer. State senators in only 12 states serve two-year terms. Thirty states have four-year terms for state senators. In the remaining eight states, senators serve one two-year term and two four-year terms every ten years in the 2-4-4 term system.

Length of terms

In the map below, the five blue states represent the lower chambers with four-year terms: Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and North Dakota. The green states represent those with two-year terms.

State legislatures with term limits

In 15 state legislatures, state legislators are subject to term limits. Voters in six additional states voted to have term limits, only to have those votes nullified. In two cases, the state legislature voted to nullify the limits imposed by voters, while in four other states, courts nullified the voter-imposed limits, primarily for technical reasons.

Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Florida • Louisiana • Maine • Michigan • Missouri •Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • Ohio • Oklahoma • South Dakota

Member-elect

A question much disputed but now seemingly settled is whether a condition of eligibility must exist at the time of the election or whether it is sufficient that eligibility exist when the Member-elect presents himself to take the oath of office.

Although the language of the clause expressly makes residency in the state a condition at the time of election, it now appears established in congressional practice that the age and citizenship qualifications need only met when the Member-elect to sworn.1 Thus, persons elected to either the House of Representatives or the Senate before attaining the required age or term of citizenship have admitted as soon as they became qualified.2

5-4 vote

The Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as to state power, albeit by a surprisingly close 5-4 vote, in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton.23 Arkansas, along with twenty-two other states, all but two by citizen initiatives, had limited the number of terms that Members of Congress may serve.

In striking down the Arkansas term limits, the Court determined that the Constitution’s qualifications clauses24 establish exclusive qualifications for Members that may not added to either by Congress or the states.25 Six years later, the Court relied on Thornton to invalidate a Missouri law requiring that labels be placed on ballots alongside the names of congressional candidates who had disregarded voters’ instruction on term limits or declined to pledge support for term limits.26

Constitutional framework

The House of Representatives shares equal responsibility for lawmaking with the U.S. Senate. As conceived by the framers of the Constitution, the House was to represent the popular will, and its members were to directly elected by the people. In contrast, members of the Senate appointed by the states until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment (1913), which mandated the direct election of senators.

Each state guaranteed at least one member of the House of Representatives. The allocation of seats based on the population within the states, and membership reapportioned every 10 years, following the decennial census. House members elected for two-year terms from single-member districts of approximately equal population.

The constitutional requirements for eligibility for membership of the House of Representatives are a minimum age of 25 years, U.S. citizenship for at least seven years. And residency of the state from which the member elected. Though he need not reside in the constituency that he represents.

The case for four-year maximum terms

Modern critics focus on at least seven benefits they claim will flow from an extension of House of Representatives terms to four years:

  • a long-standing claim holds that longer terms would encourage governments to introduce policies that were long-term rather than merely politically expedient
  • it claimed that longer terms would enhance business confidence
  • over time, a great deal of money would saved by having fewer national elections
  • it often said that Australians dislike the frequency with which they required to vote
  • a change to four-year terms would bring the House of Representatives term into line with most State and Territory lower house terms
  • the current system said to do little for the representative function that is so important a part of the MP’s duties, and
  • longer periods between elections would raise the standard of political debate.
term length for house of representatives
term length for house of representatives

Five-year maximum terms?

If an argument in favour of lengthening the House of Representatives term is that this give government and business longer to plan and introduce policies, should the maximum term increased from three to five years?

The lower houses in Ireland, France, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) all have terms of this length. It is noteworthy that there have been 21 elections in Australia in the past 50 years, compared with only 14 in the UK and 16 in Canada.

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