3 Things About Congress That Will Surprise You

US Capitol Building

Here are some things that you may not know about Congress which we think may surprise you.

Congress is Getting Richer and Richer

This one you may not be particularly surprised at, but members of Congress are getting richer and richer at a remarkable pace. According to Congressional financial disclosures, in 2013 the net worth of members of Congress was an average of $1 million. There are many who are much wealthier than that of course.

If we put in into context with the overall wealth of the American people, the figures become a little more concerning. The wealth of the average American is down 43% since 2007. Members of Congress are doing way better than the average American. Their net worth has increased a massive 28% since 2007. They are obviously doing something right that the rest of us are missing!

Senators fare much better than Representatives. The average net worth of a member of the Senate was $2.8 million. The average net worth of a member of the House of Representatives was far less at just $843,500.

Women in Congress

Although today there are more women in Congress than at any other time in history, they still remain a minority. In there were just 104 women in Congress. Of these there were 76 Democrats and 28 Republicans. As there are 535 members this means that women make up just 19.4% of the United States Congress.

There are 100 members of the United States Senate and just 20 of them are women. There are 84 women in the United States of Representatives – so this is just 19.3%.

Whilst these figures are still not great, we can take some small consolation in the fact that the trend of having women in Congress is increasing. Over time there have only been 278 women who have served in the House of Representatives. The majority of these have been elected since 1992. Jeannette Rankin was the first women ever to be elected to Congress. She was elected to serve in the House of Representatives in 1917.

Surprisingly only 46 women have ever served in the Senate. There is fortunately an upward trend in the number of women being elected to the United States Senate as 23 of those women were elected after 1996. Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first women to be elected to the Senate. She was elected in 1922, but served for only one day.

In the history of Congress, most of the women who have served and who are still serving, are white. The first Asian American woman representative was Patsy Mink who was elected on January 1965. Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman representative. She started her term in the house on 3 January 1969. The first Hispanic American woman was not elected to Congress until 1989. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took office on 29 August 1989.

Technological Advances

The United States has seen many technological advances since the 1st Congress. It is amazing to think that it wasn’t until 1880 that the House of Representatives had a phone installed. This was of course early for its time, as most America households did not have this luxury until many years later.

We are now used to watching Congress on television, but it is not that many years ago that the only communication for the public was in the form of radio broadcasts. The first broadcast was almost 100 years ago on 19 December 1922.

It was not until after the end of World War II that there were any television broadcasts from Congress. The first televised broadcast was during the opening session on the 80th Congress on 3 January 1947. We wonder what the viewing figures for that were!

It took many years before the first live broadcast from Congress was televised. The world had to wait until 19 March 1979 to see a live broadcast. Albert Gore Jr was the first Member of Congress ever to speak on the live television broadcast.


Photo by ttarasiuk