Once an old boys club, the U.S. Senate's makeup has changed from typically older white men to include women and minorities. Two representatives from each of the 50 states make up the Senate. The first female senator, Rebecca Latimer Felton, took the oath of office in 1922. Since that time, 44 women have served in the U.S. Senate. In 2013, of the 100 senators, 20 were women, according to the U.S. Senate official website.
Education and Background
The educational and professional backgrounds of U.S. senators run the gamut and include lawyers, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, soldiers, journalists and others. Common educational backgrounds include law, business, political science and medicine. The people of each state elect their senators and so a strong involvement in community activities goes a long way in getting elected. Starting out slow in a local government position, like the school board or city council, and working your way up to state-level politics is an excellent way to gain experience.
The supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, lays out the qualifications to become a senator. Candidates must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years before running and a resident of the state they will represent. Other qualifications include filing W-2s each year and being up-to-date on taxes and having a clean criminal background. Serving as a senator requires more than shaking hands and kissing babies; senators should have excellent listening skills, be willing to put in the hard work and long hours and be able and willing to follow through on promises. Other skills desirable for senators include honesty, transparency, integrity and willingness to stand up for what you believe in.
First and foremost, a U.S. senator’s main job is to represent the citizens of her state. Her primary responsibility is assuring she has her state’s best interests in mind when drafting legislation and voting on bills. A senator attempts to secure funding for different state projects and create and pass rules and regulations that benefit her state. While her state is her No. 1 priority, a senator also has an obligation to the entire country and must balance her state’s interests with those of all U.S. citizens. When not in Washington D.C., a senator makes the rounds through her state, talking to people, listening to their issues and trying to offer solutions. Other job duties include voting on bills, sitting on committees and giving advice and consent to presidents on nominations and treaties.
Work Environment and Salary
A typical work week for a senator means lots of travel and hours on the road. Most senators spend two to three days at home in their states and the other three to four days in Washington, D.C. Tax money pays senators' salaries, with each senator earning the same amount each year. The U.S. Senate does not have a graduated pay scale or pay more for seniority, except for the Senate majority leader, who does make more. As of 2013, U.S. senators made $174,000 a year and senators have not received a pay increase since 2009. As government employees, senators receive the same job perks as other federal personnel, including health insurance and a retirement account.
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