- Historic Sites
October 1974 | Volume 25, Issue 6
Only three senators are not college graduates: John McClellan of Arkansas, who after reading law in his father’s office was admitted to the bar at the age of seventeen by a special act of the state legislature; Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who left the University of Arizona after one year to work in his family’s department store; and Harold Hughes of Iowa, who left the University of Iowa in 1941 for military service and did not return. Seventy-eight senators hold advanced degrees; two hold Ph.D.’s.
• The current House of Representatives has 229 lawyers, 83 businessmen, 32 teachers, and 23 farmers or ranchers among its members. (Of 65 members in the first House in 1789, 24 were lawyers; of 357 members in 1895, 240 were lawyers.)
• The current House also includes three physicians (the same number as in 1789), one druggist, and one veterinarian. There are as well four professional athletes, five FBI agents, three police chiefs, one CIA operative, four union officials, four ministers, one priest, one professional magician, a meteorologist, seventeen newsmen, a TV weatherman, and one funeral director.
• The current Senate has seventy lawyers, twelve businessmen (principally in banking, real estate, and insurance), seven farmers or ranchers, seven teachers, and four newsmen.
• Two hundred and eighty-five members of the current House are Protestant, and there are ninety-four Roman Catholics, twelve Jews, seven Mormons, four Unitarians, three Christian Scientists, three Greek Orthodox, and one Seventh-Day Adventist. Twenty-six members of the House list no religious affiliation.
• Sixty-nine senators at the present time are Protestant, and there are fourteen Roman Catholics, four Mormons, four Unitarians, three Jews, one Christian Scientist, and one Syrian Orthodox. Four senators list no affiliation.
• One fourth of the House membership is over the age of sixty, twenty-two are over seventy, and three are in their eighties. The median age is approximately fifty-three.
• One third of the Senate is over the age of sixty, a figure constant since 1950. Twelve senators are over seventy. The median age in the Senate is about fifty-eight.
Perhaps the most significant characteristic in the congressional membership in recent years is the average length of service, which has steadily increased since the Civil War. In 1869 the average among House members was 1.04 terms; in 1923, 2.5; in 1945, 4.5. Currently the figure is 5.5 terms.
• In 1900 nine per cent of the House (36 members out of 391) had served five or more terms. In 1957 45 per cent (196 of 435) had served that long. At present 50 per cent (218 of 435) have held office for five or more terms.
• The median length of service in the current House is nine years. Seventy-five members have served twenty or more years. Fifteen members have been in the House at least thirty years, and three for forty or more. (The record for House service is fifty years, established early in the century by Joseph Cannon of Illinois and shared since by Carl Vinson of Georgia and Emmanuel Celler of New York.)
• The median length of service in the present Senate is ten years. Forty-nine of the hundred senators have served twelve years or longer; six have held their seats for more than thirty years. George Aiken of Vermont is the current dean of the Senate, with thirty-four years’ service. The longevity record is forty-two years, held by Carl Hayden of Arizona, who retired in 1969.
The moneys are expended on congressional salaries, staff, maintenance of the House and Senate office buildings in the capital and the state and district offices of members of Congress across the nation. In addition, the moneys are used to maintain two swimming pools, two gyms, a radio- TV studio in each house, barber and beauty shops in the Capitol, ten restaurants and cafeterias, the Library of Congress, the Government Printing Office, and the dozens of ancillary agencies staffed by the thirty-three thousand employees currently on the congressional payroll.
Senators and representatives receive equal pay, since 1969 $42,500 a year. The first members of Congress were paid six dollars per diem when Congress was in session; this was raised to eight dollars a day in 1818. Beginning in 1856 members of Congress received a fixed salary, initially three thousand dollars yearly, by 1946 twelve thousand dollars. In 1964 the pay was thirty thousand dollars.
The Speaker of the House is paid $62,500. The majority and minority leaders of both houses and the president pro tempore of the Senate receive $49,500 each, plus the use of a chauffeured limousine.