Abraham was born in East Lansing, Michigan, the son of Juliette Elizabeth (Sear), a member of the Michigan Republican State Central Committee, and Eddie Joseph Abraham. He is a graduate of East Lansing High School. Of Lebanese descent, Abraham is married to Jane Abraham (current co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, and chair of the Susan B. Anthony List) and has three children: a son, Spencer, and twin girls, Betsy and Julie. He holds a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard University, and is a 1974 Honors College graduate of Michigan State University. In 1978, while at Harvard Law School, Abraham helped found the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. It became one of the official journals of the Federalist Society, which was founded in 1982.
Before his election to the Senate, Abraham was a law professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
He was elected chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1983 to 1990. He was deputy chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle from 1990 to 1991. He later served as co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 1991 to 1993 and ran for chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1993, coming second to Haley Barbour.
Abraham was elected to represent Michigan in the United States Senate in 1994, and he served until 2001 when he was defeated for reelection to the Senate in 2000 for a second term by Debbie Stabenow. He was the only Arab American in the chamber. According to the New York Times, State Republicans attributed his loss to "scathing advertisements by a wide range of special interest groups, including advertisements that criticized Mr. Abraham's support for a relaxation of some immigration restrictions". During the campaign the Federation for American Immigration Reform ran ads asking: "Why is Senator Spencer Abraham trying to make it easier for terrorists like Osama bin Laden to export their war of terror to any city street in America?" The media denounced these commercials as "vengeful". In 1996, when President Clinton endorsed Congresswoman Barbara Jordan's proposed cuts to legal immigration Senator Abraham played a leading role in blocking the proposed cuts. Another factor in his defeat was his vote to convict President Clinton in his 1999 impeachment trial. The following year he received the "Defender of the Melting Pot" award from the National Council of La Raza for his efforts on the immigration issue.
He served on the Budget, Commerce, Science and Transportation, Judiciary, and Small Business Committees. He also chaired two subcommittees: Manufacturing and Competitiveness, and Immigration. Abraham authored the "H1B Visa in Global and National Commerce Act", establishing a federal framework for on-line contracts and signatures; the "Government Paperwork Elimination Act", and the "Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act", which protects Internet domain names for businesses and persons against copyright and trademark infringements. In 1999, Abraham co-sponsored S.896, a bill to abolish the U.S. Department of Energy, which would have transferred control of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in large part to the Defense Department.
Abraham was appointed Secretary of Energy by the incoming George W. Bush's administration. On November 15, 2004, Abraham announced that he would resign from this position, effective with the swearing in of his successor Samuel W. Bodman on February 1, 2005.
In 2004, Lebanese Ambassador Farid Abboud awarded Abraham the National Order of the Cedar.
Abraham was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, an influential think tank based at Stanford University from 2005 through 2007. After leaving office, Abraham opened The Abraham Group, a Washington DC based international strategic consulting firm. In 2006, Spencer Abraham accepted the appointment as Chairman of the Board of Areva Inc., the US subsidiary of the French nuclear energy company.
On July 24, 2007, Abraham was announced as an "ambassador to official Washington" in the Fred Thompson presidential campaign.
In 2006 Abraham was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of AREVA Inc., the American arm of the French nuclear company Areva, which is planning to build EPR nuclear power plants in the United States, and is building the mixed oxide fuel (MOX) manufacturing plant at the Savannah River Site to convert legacy weapons-grade plutonium into power station fuel.
With William Tucker, Abraham wrote Lights Out!: Ten Myths About (and Real Solutions to) America's Energy Crisis, which was published in July 2010.
Abraham is also the Chairman and CEO of The Abraham Group, a strategic consulting firm providing assistance to clients seeking opportunities in the U.S. and global markets.