Capitol Corner: The Congressional Oath

Do Members of Congress have to take an oath-of-office like the President? What do they pledge? Columbus, OH

Yes. The Constitution (Article VI, clause 3) requires that Senators and Representatives take an oath of office to support the Constitution. The specific language of the oath has changed several times since it was first administered in 1789. It is set by statute (5 U.S.C. 3331), enacted by Congress. It now reads:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

U.S. law requires that Members must be sworn before they can take their seats (2 U.S.C. 21, 25). The rules of the House of Representatives prohibit a Member from voting or introducing a bill until he/she has taken the oath.

The oath is administered to Members-elect on the opening day of each new Congress. In the House, the Speaker administers the oath to the Members present in the chamber all at once, as a group. Members absent on opening day due to illness or other reasons, take the oath later from the Speaker, or another House officer. If they cannot make it to the House, a local justice in their area is usually designated by the Speaker of the House to administer the oath.

In the Senate, the oath is administered by the President of the Senate (the Vice-President of the U.S.), or a Senator is designated to give the oath in his stead. Senators come forward to take the oath in alphabetical order in groups of four on the opening day of a new Congress. They are escorted to the front of the chamber by the sitting Senator from their state.

Senators who join the body later, for example after special elections, take the oath of office alone – as did Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) who is pictured taking his oath above, accompanied by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the sitting Senator from Massachusetts.

You can read a detailed history of how the language of the oath of office has developed over the years on the U.S. Senate’s institutional history website.

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2 Responses to “Capitol Corner: The Congressional Oath”

  • RS

    Members of our current Congress and administration swore to ‘support and defend’ the U.S. Constitution? Please forgive my laughter…rude of me…sorry, but I haven’t noticed much ‘supporting and defending’ our beloved Supreme Law of the Land. Rather, I have observed a whole lot of circumventing the Constitution, via Deeming to Pass, and any other loophole possible, since day one of the current administration, in order to ignore the Constitution, and slam their policies down the throats of American citizens. How Sad for our still Great country, that members of the House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and White House don’t appreciate the sacred position they were elected to hold and to serve the voting Americans who put them there in the first place. Maybe one day they will come to realize the special place of honor they once held.

  • Stock

    It is absolutely a joke-so is this website. You purport to support the Constitution yet you know that 535 Congressional representatives on Jan 9 2009 violated their Oath when they voted in the Joint Session to elect Obama who was not eligible as he, by his own admission was a dual citizen. Please note that several months earlier, the Senate in its own investigation into the eligibilty of John McCain defined “natural born citizen” in SR511 to be “born to American citizens” and that Obama freely admits that his father was Kenyan and that he is a “dual citizen”. Without adherence to the Constitution (Art II) there is no law. Everyone who continues to excuse or deny the reality of an ineligible actor posing as President, who is in fact ordering brave men and women to die in his name, is complicit in the criminal act. Keep that on your conscience!