The Structure of the House in Washington, D.C. - dummies

The Structure of the House in Washington, D.C.

By Greg Rushford

The House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., has 435 members, each of whom serves only a two-year term. Someone must be at least 25 years old to run for a House seat.

The entire House goes up for election every two years, which means it can experience much more significant turnover in any given election than the Senate can. This fact should help to ensure that power doesn’t become entrenched within the chamber; voters have a regular opportunity to elect people who will most fully and accurately represent their interests in Congress. (Of course, this ideal is not always achieved.)

The Constitution made sure that each state has at least one representative in the House, but not all states are represented equally (as they are in the Senate). Instead, the number of House seats in a state is determined by its population, thus giving greater representation to states with greater populations. (Wyoming has 1 representative; California has 53. Alaska has 1 representative; New York has 29.)

This was the other major component of the Great Compromise of 1787 and, naturally, was favored by the larger states.

The Constitution did not specifically state that the House should have a total of 435 members. In 1911, after seeing the House grow many times in the early years of the republic, Congress fixed the number at 435.

The House is technically the lower house of Congress, and it’s considered the legislative body of the people — representing the actual population of the United States and, at least in theory, responding more readily than the Senate to the population’s will.