Congress convenes for opening session of the 115th Congress. Photo Credit: Washington Post
The 115th Congress has been in session since January 4, and has been raring to go ever since.
President Trump, in fact, has predicted that the upcoming term would be the "busiest Congress in decades, maybe ever," considering what's on their agenda; from trade, immigration, regulatory reform to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
From the looks of it, this newly christened Congress is equal to the task, considering its eclectic and highly diverse membership.
It's comforting to know, for example, that there's a few Dr. Phil's on board (3 psychologists) in case any members need to lie flat on the House floor for a quick therapy session, a former CIA agent (to ferret out foreign spies or New York Times’ reporters), a firefighter (to hose down the hot air emanating from members), a newspaper publisher (to grumble about fake news and declining print newspaper subscribers), 26 farmers (who can pick up members on their tractors for an important vote in Congress), a rodeo announcer, 8 ordained ministers, and even an explosives expert in case Congress decides to execute the “Nuclear Option.”
In order to gain a greater appreciation of democracy in action, I assembled a demographic profile on the 115th Congress.
- Since 1789, 12,238 individuals have served in Congress: 10,940 in the House and 1,970 in the Senate. Of these Members, 672 have served in both chambers. These numbers do not include an additional 177 individuals who have served only as territorial Delegates or as Resident Commissioners from Puerto Rico or the Philippines in the House
- In the House of Representatives, there are 243 Republicans (including one Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico) and 198 Democrats (including four Delegates). The Senate has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two Independents, who both caucus with the Democrat.
- The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years, among the oldest in U.S. history.
- Keeping in mind the Constitution requires Representatives be at least 25 years old, the youngest Representative at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 32-year-old Elise Stefanik (R-NY), born July 2, 1984. The oldest Representative was John Conyers (D-MI), born May 16, 1929, who was 87 at the beginning of the 115th Congress.
- Keeping in mind Senators must be at least 30 years old when they take office, the oldest Senator in the 115th Congress is Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), born June 22, 1933, who was 83 at the beginning of the Congress. The youngest Senator is Tom Cotton (R-AR), born May 13, 1977, who was 39.
Previous Occupations of the 115th Congress
- 101 Members have worked in education, including teachers, professors, instructors, school fundraisers, counselors, administrators, or coaches (85 in the House, 16 in the Senate).
- 3 physicians in the Senate, 11 physicians in the House, including 4 dentists and 3 veterinarians.
- 3 psychologists (all in the House), an optometrist (in the Senate), a pharmacist (in the House), and 2 nurses (in the House).
- 8 ordained ministers, all in the House.
- 43 former mayors (35 in the House, 8 in the Senate).
- 12 former state governors (10 in the Senate, two in the House) and 7 lieutenant governors (3 in the Senate, 4 in the House, including 1 Delegate).
- 15 former judges (all but one in the House) and 47 prosecutors (12 in the Senate, 35 in the House) who have served in city, county, state, federal or military capacities.
- 1 former Cabinet Secretary (in the Senate), and three Ambassadors (all in the House).
- 266 former state or territorial legislators (44 in the Senate, 222 in the House).
- At least 96 former congressional staffers (18 in the Senate, 78 in the House; including three Delegates), as well as 6 congressional pages (3 in the House and 3 in the Senate).
- 3 sheriffs, 1 police chief and 5 other police officers, 1 firefighter, 1 CIA agent, and 1 FBI agent (all in the House).
- 2 Peace Corps volunteers, all in the House.
- 1 physicist, 1 microbiologist, and 1 chemist, all in the House.
- 8 engineers (7 in the House and 1 in the Senate).
- 21 public relations or communications professionals (three in the Senate, 18 in the House), and 11 accountants (2 in the Senate and 9 in the House).
- 6 software company executives in the House and two in the Senate.
- 18 management consultants (4 in the Senate, 14 in the House), 6 car dealership owners (all in the House), and 3 venture capitalists (2 in the House, 1 in the Senate).
- 18 bankers or bank executives (4 in the Senate, 14 in the House), 36 veterans of the real estate industry (5 in the Senate, 31 in the House), and 14 Members who have worked in the construction industry (2 in the Senate, 12 in the House).
- 9 social workers (1 in the Senate, 8 in the House) and 3 union representatives (all in the House).
- 7 radio talk show hosts (1 Senate, 6 House); 7 radio or television broadcasters, managers, or owners (2 Senate, 5 House).
- 8 reporters or journalists (1 Senate, 7 House), a public television producer in the House, and a newspapers publisher in the House.
- 21 insurance agents or executives (4 Senate, 17 House) and 3 Members who have worked with stocks or bonds (1 Senate, 2 House).
- 1 screenwriter and comedian and 1 documentary filmmaker (both in the Senate), and 1 artist and 2 speechwriters (all in the House).
- 26 farmers, ranchers, or cattle farm owners (four in the Senate, 22 in the House).
- 2 almond orchard owners in the House as well as one vintner.
- 10 current members of the military reserves (9 House, 1 Senate) and 6 current members of the National Guard (all in the House).
- Other occupations of Members in the 115th Congress, include: emergency dispatcher, letter carrier, urban planner, astronaut, pilot, flight attendant, electrician, museum director, rodeo announcer, carpenter, computer systems analyst, software engineer, R & D lab executive, and explosives expert.
- 18 Members of the House have no educational degree beyond a high school diploma.
- 8 Members of the House have associate’s degrees as their highest degrees.
- 100 Members of the House and 21 Senators earned a master’s degree as their highest attained degrees.
- 167 Members of the House (37.8 percent of the House) and 55 Senators (55 percent of the Senate) hold law degrees.
- 22 Representatives and 2 Senators have doctoral (Ph.D., D.Phil., Ed.D., or D. Min) degrees.
- 18 Members of the House and three Senators have medical degrees.
- 4 Representatives and 1 Senator in the 115th Congress are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, 2 Senators graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, and 1 Representative graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
- 1 Senator and 2 Representatives were Rhodes Scholars, 2 Representatives were Fulbright Scholars, 2 Representatives were Marshall Scholars, and 1 Senator and 1 Representative were Truman Scholars.
- At the beginning of the 115th Congress, 52 of the House Members, including the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico (11.8 percent of the total House Membership) had first been elected to the House in November 2016, and 7 of the Senators (7 percent of the total Senate membership) had first been elected to the Senate in November 2016. These numbers are lower than at the beginning of the 114th Congress, when 13.8 percent of the House and 13 percent of the Senate were newly elected “freshmen.”
- The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 9.4 years (4.7 House terms); for Senators, 10.1 years (1.7 Senate terms).
- At the beginning of the 115th Congress, 116 House Members, including two Delegates and the Resident Commissioner (26 percent of House Members), had no more than two years of House experience, and 21 Senators (21 percent of Senators) had no more than two years of Senate experience.
- 9 percent of the Members (241 in the House, 58 in the Senate) are Protestant, with Baptist as the most represented denomination, followed by Methodist.
- 4 percent of the Members (144 in the House, 24 in the Senate) are Catholic.
- 6 percent of the Members (22 in the House, 8 in the Senate) are Jewish.
- 4 percent of the Members (7 in the House, 6 in the Senate) are Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
- 3 Members (two in the House, 1 in the Senate) are Buddhist, 2 House Members are Muslim, and 3 House Members are Hindu.
- Other religious affiliations represented include: Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and Christian Science.
Gender and Ethnicity
- A record 109 female Members (20.1 percent of the total membership) serve in the 115th Congress, 1 more than at the beginning of the 114th Congress.
- 88 women, including 4 Delegates as well as the Resident Commissioner, serve in the House and 21 in the Senate.
- Of the 88 women in the House, 65 are Democrats, including 3 of the Delegates, and 23 are Republicans, including 1 Delegate as well as the Resident Commissioner.
- Of the 21 women in the Senate, 16 are Democrats and 5 are Republicans.
African American Members
- There are a record 52 African American Members (9.6 percent of the total membership) in the 115th Congress, 4 more than at the beginning of the 114th Congress.
- 49 serve in the House, including 2 Delegates, and 3 serve in the Senate, including 1 Representative, as well as 1 Senator, who are of African American and Asian ancestry, and 1 Representative who is of African American and Hispanic ancestry.
- 47 of the African American House Members, including 2 Delegates, are Democrats, and 2 are Republicans.
- 2 Senators are Democrats and 1 is Republican.
- 20 African American women, including 2 Delegates, serve in the House, and 1 serves in the Senate.
Hispanic/Latino American Members
- There are 45 Hispanic or Latino Members in the 115th Congress, 8.3 percent of the total membership and a record number.
- 40 serve in the House and 5 in the Senate, which included 1 House Member who is also of Asian descent, and 1 House Member of African ancestry; these Members are counted in both ethnic categories.
- Of the Members of the House, 29 are Democrats (including 1 Delegate) and 11 are Republicans (including the Resident Commissioner).
- 10 are women, including the Resident Commissioner.
- Of the 5 Hispanic Senators (3 Republicans, 2 Democrats), 1 is a woman.
Asian/Pacific Islander American Members
- 18 Members of the 115th Congress (3.3 percent of the total membership) are of Asian, South Asian, or Pacific Islander ancestry.
- 15 of them (14 Democrats, 1 Republican) serve in the House, and three (all Democrats) serve in the Senate, which includes 1 House Member and 1 Senator who are also of African American ancestry, and another House Member of Hispanic ancestry; these Members are counted in both ethnic categories.
- 11 of the Asian, Pacific Islander or South Asian American Members are female: 78 in the House and all 3 in the Senate.
American Indian Members
- There are 2 American Indian (Native American) Members of the 115th Congress; both are Republican Members of the House.
- Keeping in mind that The U.S. Constitution requires that Representatives be citizens for 7 years and Senators be citizens for 9 years before they take office, 18 Representatives and 5 Senators (4.2 percent of the 115th Congress) were born outside the United States. Their places of birth include: Canada, Cuba, Guatemala, Japan, Peru and India.
- At the beginning of the 115th Congress, there were 102 Members (18.8 percent of the total membership) who had served or were serving in the military, one more than at the beginning of the 114th Congress (101 Members), but 6 fewer than at the beginning of the 113th Congress (108 Members).
- The House currently has 82 veterans (including 2 female Members, as well as 1 Delegate); the Senate has 20 veterans, including 2 women, which includes service in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, combat or peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, as well as during times of peace.
- 9 House Members and 1 Senator are still serving in the reserves, and 6 House Members are still serving in the National Guard. All of the female veterans are combat veterans.
February 13, 2017
Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS); Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life; Congressional Quarterly (CQ): “CQ Guide to the New Congress.”