Seniority in the United States Senate
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Seniority in the United States Senate is valuable as it confers a number of perquisites and is based on length of continuous service, with ties broken by a series of factors. Customarily, the terms "senior senator" and "junior senator" are used to distinguish the two senators representing a particular state.
Benefits of seniority
The United States Constitution does not mandate differences in rights or power, but Senate rules give more power to senators with more seniority. Generally, senior senators will have more power, especially within their own caucuses. In addition, by custom, senior senators from the president's party control federal patronage appointments in their states. Thus, being the junior senator may be disadvantageous if the senior senator is also from the same party.
There are several perquisites, including the following:
- Senators are given preferential treatment in choosing committee assignments based on seniority. Seniority on a committee is based on length of time serving on that committee, which means a senator may rank above another in committee seniority but be more junior in the full Senate. Although the committee chairmanship is an elected position, it is traditionally given to the most senior senator of the majority party serving on the committee. The ranking member of a committee (called the vice-chairman in some select committees) is elected in the same way.
- Greater seniority enables a senator to choose a desk closer to the front of the Senate Chamber.
- Senators with higher seniority may choose to move into better office space as those offices are vacated.
- Seniority determines the ranking in the United States order of precedence although other factors, such as being a former President or First Lady, can place an individual higher in the order of precedence.
Determination of seniority
A senator's seniority is primarily determined by length of continuous service: a senator who has served for 12 years is more senior than one who has served for 10 years. Because several new senators usually join at the beginning of a new Congress, there are eight tiebreakers:
- Former Senator
- Former Representative
- Former President of the United States
- Former Vice President of the United States
- Former Cabinet member
- Former state Governor
- Population of state based on the most recent census when the senator took office
- Alphabetical by last name (in case two senators came from the same state on the same day and have identical credentials)
When more than one senator has served in the same previous role, length of time in that prior office is used to break the tie. For instance, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, John McCain and Harry Reid all took office on January 3, 1987, and each had previously served in the House of Representatives. Mikulski, having served 10 years, is more senior than Shelby, who served 8. They are both more senior than McCain and Reid, who each served 4 years. McCain, however, outranks Reid because Arizona's population was higher than Nevada's as of the 1980 census.
Current seniority list
The president pro tempore of the Senate is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party. Only relevant factors are listed below. For senators whose seniority is based on their states' respective populations, the state population ranking is given as determined by the relevant United States Census.
|Rank||Senator||Seniority date||First tie-breaker||Second tie-breaker||Committee and leadership positions|
|1||Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||January 3, 1975||President pro tempore
|2||Orrin Hatch (R-UT)||January 3, 1977||Ranking Member: Finance|
|3||Max Baucus (D-MT)||December 15, 1978[n 1]||Chair: Finance|
|4||Thad Cochran (R-MS)||December 27, 1978||Ranking Member: Agriculture|
|5||Carl Levin (D-MI)||January 3, 1979||Chair: Armed Services|
|6||Chuck Grassley (R-IA)||January 3, 1981||Ranking Member: Judiciary|
|7||Tom Harkin[n 2] (D-IA)||January 3, 1985||Former Representative||Chair: H.E.L.P.|
|8||Mitch McConnell (R-KY)||Minority Leader|
|9||Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)||January 15, 1985||Chair: Commerce|
|10||Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)||January 3, 1987||Former Representative (10 years)||Chair: Appropriations|
|11||Richard Shelby (R[n 3]-AL)||Former Representative (8 years)||Ranking Member: Appropriations|
|12||John McCain (R-AZ)||Former Representative (4 years)||Arizona 29th in population (1980)|
|13||Harry Reid (D-NV)||Nevada 43rd in population (1980)||Majority Leader
Democratic Caucus Chair
|14||Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)||November 4, 1992||Chair: Intelligence|
|15||Barbara Boxer (D-CA)||January 3, 1993||Former Representative||Chair: Environment and Public Works
|16||Patty Murray (D-WA)||Democratic Conference Secretary
|17||Jim Inhofe (R-OK)||November 16, 1994||Ranking Member: Armed Services|
|18||Ron Wyden (D-OR)||February 6, 1996||Chair: Energy|
|19||Pat Roberts (R-KS)||January 3, 1997||Former Representative (16 years)||Ranking Member: Rules|
|20||Dick Durbin (D-IL)||Former Representative (14 years)||Majority Whip|
|21||Tim Johnson (D-SD)||Former Representative (10 years)||Chair: Banking|
|22||Jack Reed (D-RI)||Former Representative (6 years)|
|23||Mary Landrieu (D-LA)||Louisiana 21st in population (1990)||Chair: Small Business|
|24||Jeff Sessions (R-AL)||Alabama 22nd in population (1990)||Ranking Member: Budget|
|25||Susan Collins (R-ME)||Maine 38th in population (1990)||Ranking Member: Aging|
|26||Mike Enzi (R-WY)||Wyoming 50th in population (1990)|
|27||Chuck Schumer (D-NY)||January 3, 1999||Former Representative (18 years)||Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
Democratic Policy Chair
|28||Mike Crapo (R-ID)||Former Representative (6 years)||Ranking Member: Banking|
|29||Bill Nelson (D-FL)||January 3, 2001||Former Representative (12 years)||Chair: Aging|
|30||Tom Carper (D-DE)||Former Representative (10 years)||Chair: Homeland Security|
|31||Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)||Former Representative (4 years)||Chair: Agriculture|
|32||Maria Cantwell (D-WA)||Former Representative (2 years)||Chair: Indian Affairs|
|33||Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)||December 20, 2002||Ranking Member: Energy|
|34||Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)||January 3, 2003||Former Senator[n 4]|
|35||Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)||Former Representative (8 years)||Georgia 10th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Intelligence|
|36||Lindsey Graham (R-SC)||South Carolina 26th in population (2000)|
|37||Lamar Alexander (R-TN)||Former Cabinet member||Ranking Member: H.E.L.P.|
|38||John Cornyn[n 5] (R-TX)||Texas 2nd in population (2000)||Minority Whip|
|39||Mark Pryor (D-AR)||Arkansas 33rd in population (2000)|
|40||Richard Burr (R-NC)||January 3, 2005||Former Representative (10 years)||Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs|
|41||Tom Coburn (R-OK)||Former Representative (6 years)||Oklahoma 27th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Homeland Security|
|42||John Thune (R-SD)||South Dakota 46th in population (2000)||Republican Conference Chair
Ranking Member: Commerce
|43||Johnny Isakson (R-GA)||Former Representative (5 yrs., 10 mos.)||Ranking Member: Ethics|
|44||David Vitter (R-LA)||Former Representative (5 yrs., 7 mos.)||Ranking Member: Environment|
|45||Bob Menendez (D-NJ)||January 17, 2006[n 1]||Chair: Foreign Relations|
|46||Ben Cardin (D-MD)||January 3, 2007||Former Representative (20 years)|
|47||Bernie Sanders (I-VT)||Former Representative (16 years)||Chair: Veterans' Affairs|
|48||Sherrod Brown (D-OH)||Former Representative (14 years)|
|49||Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)||Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)|
|50||Bob Corker (R-TN)||Tennessee 16th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Foreign Relations|
|51||Claire McCaskill (D-MO)||Missouri 17th in population (2000)|
|52||Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)||Minnesota 21st in population (2000)|
|53||Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)||Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)|
|54||Jon Tester (D-MT)||Montana 44th in population (2000)|
|55||John Barrasso (R-WY)||June 22, 2007||Republican Policy Chair
Ranking Member: Indian Affairs
|56||Roger Wicker (R-MS)||December 31, 2007[n 1]|
|57||Mark Udall (D-CO)||January 3, 2009||Former Representative (10 years)||Colorado 24th in population (2000)|
|58||Tom Udall (D-NM)||New Mexico 36th in population (2000)|
|59||Mike Johanns (R-NE)||Former Cabinet member|
|60||Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)||Former Governor (6 years)|
|61||Mark Warner (D-VA)||Former Governor (4 years)|
|62||Jim Risch (R-ID)||Former Governor (7 months)||Ranking Member: Small Business|
|63||Kay Hagan (D-NC)||North Carolina 11th in population (2000)|
|64||Jeff Merkley (D-OR)||Oregon 28th in population (2000)|
|65||Mark Begich (D-AK)||Alaska 48th in population (2000)|
|66||Michael Bennet (D-CO)||January 21, 2009[n 1]||Chair: DSCC|
|67||Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)||January 26, 2009[n 6]|
|68||Al Franken (D-MN)||July 7, 2009[n 7]|
|69||Joe Manchin (D-WV)||November 15, 2010||Former Governor|
|70||Chris Coons (D-DE)|
|71||Mark Kirk (R-IL)||November 29, 2010|
|72||Dan Coats (R-IN)||January 3, 2011||Former Senator[n 8]|
|73||Roy Blunt (R-MO)||Former Representative (14 years)||Missouri 17th in population (2000)||Republican Conference Vice Chair|
|74||Jerry Moran (R-KS)||Kansas 33rd in population (2000)||Chair: NRSC|
|75||Rob Portman (R-OH)||Former Representative (12 years)|
|76||John Boozman (R-AR)||Former Representative (10 years)|
|77||Pat Toomey (R-PA)||Former Representative (6 years)|
|78||John Hoeven (R-ND)||Former Governor|
|79||Marco Rubio (R-FL)||Florida 4th in population (2000)|
|80||Ron Johnson (R-WI)||Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)|
|81||Rand Paul (R-KY)||Kentucky 25th in population (2000)|
|82||Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)||Connecticut 29th in population (2000)|
|83||Mike Lee (R-UT)||Utah 34th in population (2000)|
|84||Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)||New Hampshire 42nd in population (2000)|
|85||Dean Heller (R-NV)||May 9, 2011|
|86||Brian Schatz (D-HI)||December 26, 2012[n 1]|
|87||Tim Scott (R-SC)||January 2, 2013[n 1]|
|88||Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)||January 3, 2013||Former Representative (14 years)|
|89||Jeff Flake (R-AZ)||Former Representative (12 years)|
|90||Joe Donnelly (D-IN)||Former Representative (6 years)||Indiana 15th in population (2010)|
|91||Chris Murphy (D-CT)||Connecticut 29th in population (2010)|
|92||Mazie Hirono (D-HI)||Hawaii 40th in population (2010)|
|93||Martin Heinrich (D-NM)||Former Representative (4 years)|
|94||Angus King (I-ME)||Former Governor (8 years)|
|95||Tim Kaine (D-VA)||Former Governor (4 years)|
|96||Ted Cruz (R-TX)||Texas 2nd in population (2010)|
|97||Elizabeth Warren[n 9] (D-MA)||Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)|
|98||Deb Fischer (R-NE)||Nebraska 38th in population (2010)|
|99||Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)||North Dakota 48th in population (2010)|
|100||Mo Cowan (D-MA)||February 1, 2013[n 1]|
|Rank||Senator||Seniority date||First tie-breaker||Second tie-breaker||Committee and leadership positions|
See also↑Jump back a section
- The seniority date for an appointed senator is the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office.
- Tom Harkin is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
- Richard Shelby was originally elected as a Democrat. He switched parties in 1994 with no break in his service or seniority.
- Frank Lautenberg previously served in the Senate from January 1983 to January 2001, but does not retain seniority from that prior service. Lautenberg sought restoration of his seniority based on his prior service, but did not receive it.
- John Cornyn's predecessor, Phil Gramm, resigned early, effective November 30, 2002, so that Senator-elect Cornyn could take office early, and move into Gramm's office suite in order to begin organizing his staff. Cornyn did not, however, gain seniority, owing to a 1980 Rules Committee policy that no longer gave seniority to senators who entered Congress early for the purpose of gaining advantageous office space.
- Appointment, and therefore seniority, is effective upon resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office.
- Al Franken was elected to the Senate term that began January 3, 2009, but, due to legal challenges, was not sworn in until July 7, 2009. (see United States Senate election in Minnesota, 2008 for more details). His seniority date is based on the date he was sworn in.
- Dan Coats previously served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999.
- Elizabeth Warren is the Senate's most junior senior senator.
- "A Chronological List of United States Senators 1789–present". Senate Historical Office.
- 1981 U.S Census Report Contains 1980 Census results.
- 1991 U.S Census Report Contains 1990 Census results.
- American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2000 Census State Population Rankings". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
- Resident Population Data (Text Version) – 2010 Census Contains 1910 to 2010 results by state and census region.
- Raymond Hernandez (June 5, 2006). "Lautenberg, 80, Has 2nd Act, and Sharper Teeth". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2013. "Democratic leaders declined to let Mr. Lautenberg, who served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II, keep his seniority when he returned in 2003 and did not give him some of the crucial committee assignments that he hoped to get when he came out of retirement in 2002 at his party's urging to run in place of Mr. Torricelli, who was embroiled in an ethics scandal."
- Rushing, J. Taylor (July 8, 2009). "Franken ranks last in Senate seniority". The Hill. Archived from the original on September 29, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
- "United States Senate Periodical Press Gallery". Senate.gov. May 2011. Retrieved November 27, 2012.