Presiding Officer of the United States Senate

The Presiding Officer of the United States Senate is the person who presides over the United States Senate and is charged with maintaining order and decorum, recognizing members to speak, and interpreting the Senate's rules, practices, and precedents. Senate presiding officer is a role, not an actual office. The actual role is usually performed by one of three officials: the Vice President; an elected United States Senator; or, in special cases, the Chief Justice. Outside the constitutionally mandated roles, the actual appointment of a person to do the job of presiding over the Senate as a body is governed by Rule I of the Standing Rules.

The Vice President is assigned the responsibility by the Constitution of presiding over the Senate and designated as its president. The vice president has the authority (ex officio, for they are not an elected member of the Senate) to cast a tie-breaking vote. Early vice presidents took an active role in regularly presiding over proceedings of the body, with the president pro tempore only being called on during the vice president's absence. During the 20th century, the role of the vice president evolved into more of an executive branch position. Now, the vice president is usually seen as an integral part of a president's administration and presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote may be needed.[1]

The Constitution also provides for the appointment of one of the elected senators to serve as President pro tempore. This senator presides when the vice president is absent from the body. The president pro tempore is selected by the body specifically for the role of presiding in the absence of (as the meaning of pro tempore, literally "for the time being") the actual presiding officer. By tradition, the title of President pro tempore has come to be given more-or-less automatically to the most senior senator of the majority party. In actual practice in the modern Senate, the president pro tempore also does not often serve in the role (though it is their constitutional right to do so). Instead, as governed by Rule I, they frequently designate a junior senator to perform the function.

When the Senate hears an impeachment trial of the President of the United States, by the procedure established in the Constitution, the Chief Justice is designated as the presiding officer.

Constitutional authorityEdit

The Constitution provides for two officers to preside over the Senate. Article One, Section 3, Clause 4 designates the Vice President of the United States as the President of the Senate. In this capacity, the vice president was expected to preside at regular sessions of the Senate, casting votes only to break ties. From John Adams in 1789 to Richard Nixon in the 1950s, presiding over the Senate was the chief function of vice presidents, who had an office in the Capitol, received their staff support and office expenses through the legislative appropriations, and rarely were invited to participate in cabinet meetings or other executive activities. In 1961, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson changed the vice presidency by moving his chief office from the Capitol to the White House, by directing his attention to executive functions, and by attending Senate sessions only at critical times when his vote, or ruling from the chair, might be necessary. Vice presidents since Johnson's time have followed his example.[2]

Next, Article One, Section 3, Clause 5 provides that in the absence of the vice president the Senate could choose a president pro tempore to temporarily preside and perform the duties of the chair. Since vice presidents presided routinely in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Senate thought it necessary to choose a president pro tempore only for the limited periods when the vice president might be ill or otherwise absent. As a result, the Senate frequently elected several presidents pro tempore during a single session.[2]

On three occasions during the 19th century, the Senate was without both a president and a president pro tempore:

Additionally, Article One, Section 3, Clause 6 grants to the Senate the sole power to try federal impeachments and spells out the basic procedures for impeachment trials. Among the requirements is the stipulation that the Chief Justice is to preside over presidential impeachment trials. This rule underscores the solemnity of the occasion and aims, in part, to avoid the possible conflict of interest of a Vice President's presiding over the proceeding for the removal of the one official standing between the Vice President and the presidency.[3] The Chief Justice has presided as such only three times:

According to Article One, Section 5, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Senate is allowed to establish, for itself, its own rules of operations, including the roles and duties of the presiding officer. Those rules are known as the Standing Rules of the United States Senate, and Rule I deals with the appointment of a person to act as the chair, or presiding officer, for normal Senate proceedings. It recognizes the constitutionally mandated roles of vice president and president pro tempore, but goes further to allow for the appointment of an acting president pro tempore, and further allows for the president pro tempore to also designate any other senator to perform his duties. As a result, during the day-to-day operation of the body, it is rare for the actual presiding role to be handled by the president pro tempore (and rarer still for the vice president to do so). Instead, a designated junior senator is most commonly appointed to do the job.

Manner of addressEdit

The presiding officer is usually addressed as "Mr. President" or "Madame President." One exception is during impeachment trials of the president; the Chief Justice was referred to as "Mr. Chief Justice" in 1868, 1999, and 2020 while presiding over the Senate.[4]

During joint sessions of Congress in which the President of the United States is giving the address, practices have varied as to how the president of the United States refers to the vice president. It was the custom for earlier presidents up to George H. W. Bush to refer to the vice president as "Mr. President" while addressing a joint session of Congress, in deference to their role as President of the Senate. Every president since Bill Clinton have since addressed the vice president acting as Senate President as “Mr. Vice President”.

List of Presiding OfficersEdit

This list includes all Presidents of the Senate (the Vice Presidents of the United States), those Presidents pro tempore of the Senate who presided during intra–term vacancies in the vice presidency or when the Vice President was acting as President of the United States, and those Chief Justices who presided during presidential impeachment trials. It does not include Presidents pro tempore who presided over sessions temporarily during an absence of the Senate President, or junior senators designated by the President pro tempore to preside temporarily.

Name Term Position
  John Langdon April 6–21, 1789 President pro tempore
  John Adams April 21, 1789 – March 4, 1797 President of the Senate
  Thomas Jefferson March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801 President of the Senate
  Aaron Burr March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1805 President of the Senate
  George Clinton March 4, 1805 – April 20, 1812 President of the Senate
  William H. Crawford April 20, 1812 – March 4, 1813 President pro tempore
  Elbridge Gerry March 4, 1813 – November 23, 1814 President of the Senate
  John Gaillard November 25, 1814 – March 4, 1817 President pro tempore
  Daniel Tompkins March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825 President of the Senate
  John C. Calhoun March 4, 1825 – December 28, 1832 President of the Senate
  Hugh Lawson White December 28, 1832 – March 4, 1833 President pro tempore
  Martin Van Buren March 4, 1833 – March 4, 1837 President of the Senate
  Richard Mentor Johnson March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841 President of the Senate
  John Tyler March 4 – April 4, 1841 President of the Senate
  Samuel L. Southard April 4, 1841 – May 31, 1842 President pro tempore
  Willie P. Mangum May 31, 1842 – March 4, 1845 President pro tempore
  George M. Dallas March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849 President of the Senate
  Millard Fillmore March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850 President of the Senate
      Vacant July 9–11, 1850[a]
  William R. King July 11, 1850 – December 20, 1852 President pro tempore
  David Rice Atchison December 20, 1852 – March 4, 1853 President pro tempore
  William R. King March 4 – April 18, 1853 President of the Senate
  David Rice Atchison April 18, 1853 – December 4, 1854 President pro tempore
  Lewis Cass December 4, 1854 President pro tempore
  Jesse D. Bright December 5, 1854 – June 9, 1856 President pro tempore
  Charles E. Stuart June 9–10, 1856 President pro tempore
  Jesse D. Bright June 11, 1856 – January 6, 1857 President pro tempore
  James Murray Mason January 6 – March 4, 1857 President pro tempore
  John C. Breckinridge March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1861 President of the Senate
  Hannibal Hamlin March 4, 1861 – March 4, 1865 President of the Senate
  Andrew Johnson March 4 – April 15, 1865 President of the Senate
  Lafayette S. Foster April 15, 1865 – March 2, 1867 President pro tempore
  Benjamin Wade March 2, 1867 – March 3, 1869 President pro tempore
  Salmon P Chase March 13 – May 26, 1868 Chief Justice
(Impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson)
  Schuyler Colfax March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1873 President of the Senate
  Henry Wilson March 4, 1873 – November 22, 1875 President of the Senate
  Thomas W. Ferry November 22, 1875 – March 4, 1877 President pro tempore
  William A. Wheeler March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881 President of the Senate
  Chester A. Arthur March 4 – September 19, 1881 President of the Senate
      Vacant September 19 – October 10, 1881[b]
  Thomas F. Bayard October 10–13, 1881 President pro tempore
  David Davis III October 13, 1881 – March 3, 1883 President pro tempore
  George F. Edmunds March 3, 1883 – March 3, 1885 President pro tempore
  Thomas A. Hendricks March 4, 1885 – November 25, 1885 President of the Senate
      Vacant November 25 – December 7, 1885[c]
  John Sherman December 7, 1885 – February 26, 1887 President pro tempore
  John James Ingalls February 26, 1887 – March 3, 1889 President pro tempore
  Levi P. Morton March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893 President of the Senate
  Adlai E. Stevenson I March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897 President of the Senate
  Garret Hobart March 4, 1897 – November 21, 1899 President of the Senate
  William P. Frye November 21, 1899 – March 4, 1901 President pro tempore
  Theodore Roosevelt March 4 – September 14, 1901 President of the Senate
  William P. Frye September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1905 President pro tempore
  Charles W. Fairbanks March 4, 1905 – March 4, 1909 President of the Senate
  James S. Sherman March 4, 1909 – October 30, 1912 President of the Senate
  Augustus Octavius Bacon October 30 – December 15, 1912 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Jacob Harold Gallinger December 16, 1912 – January 4, 1913 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Augustus Octavius Bacon January 5–18, 1913 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Jacob Harold Gallinger January 19 – February 1, 1913 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Augustus Octavius Bacon February 2–15, 1913 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Jacob Harold Gallinger February 16 – March 4, 1913 President pro tempore
(rotating)
  Thomas R. Marshall March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1921 President of the Senate
  Calvin Coolidge March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923 President of the Senate
  Albert B. Cummins August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1925 President pro tempore
  Charles G. Dawes March 4, 1925 – March 4, 1929 President of the Senate
  Charles Curtis March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933 President of the Senate
  John Nance Garner March 4, 1933 – January 20, 1941 President of the Senate
  Henry A. Wallace January 20, 1941 – January 20, 1945 President of the Senate
  Harry S. Truman January 20 – April 12, 1945 President of the Senate
  Kenneth McKellar April 12, 1945 – January 4, 1947 President pro tempore
  Arthur H. Vandenberg January 4, 1947 – January 3, 1949 President pro tempore
  Kenneth McKellar January 3–20, 1949 President pro tempore
  Alben W. Barkley January 20, 1949 – January 20, 1953 President of the Senate
  Richard Nixon January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961 President of the Senate
  Lyndon B. Johnson January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963 President of the Senate
  Carl Hayden November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1965 President pro tempore
  Hubert Humphrey January 20, 1965 – January 20, 1969 President of the Senate
  Spiro Agnew January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973 President of the Senate
  James Eastland October 10 – December 6, 1973 President pro tempore
  Gerald Ford December 6, 1973 – August 9, 1974 President of the Senate
  James Eastland August 9 – December 19, 1974 President pro tempore
  Nelson Rockefeller December 19, 1974 – January 20, 1977 President of the Senate
  Walter Mondale January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981 President of the Senate
  George H. W. Bush January 20, 1981 – July 13, 1985 President of the Senate
  Strom Thurmond July 13, 1985[d] President pro tempore
  George H. W. Bush July 13, 1985 – January 20, 1989 President of the Senate
  Dan Quayle January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993 President of the Senate
  Al Gore January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001 President of the Senate
  William Rehnquist January 8 – February 12, 1999 Chief Justice
(Impeachment trial of Bill Clinton)
  Dick Cheney January 20, 2001 – June 29, 2002 President of the Senate
  Robert Byrd June 29, 2002[e] President pro tempore
  Dick Cheney June 29, 2002 – July 21, 2007 President of the Senate
  Robert Byrd July 21, 2007[f] President pro tempore
  Dick Cheney July 21, 2007 – January 20, 2009 President of the Senate
  Joe Biden January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017 President of the Senate
  Mike Pence January 20, 2017 – present President of the Senate
  John Roberts January 16, 2020 – February 5, 2020 Chief Justice
(Impeachment trial of Donald Trump)

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The Senate was without both a president and a president pro tempore following Millard Fillmore's accession to the presidency upon the death of Zachary Taylor, until William R. King was elected president pro tempore.
  2. ^ The Senate was without both a president and a president pro tempore following Chester A. Arthur's accession to the presidency upon the death of James Garfield, until Thomas F. Bayard was elected president pro tempore.
  3. ^ The Senate was without both a president and a president pro tempore following the death of Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks, until John Sherman was elected president pro tempore.
  4. ^ Thurmond was the presiding officer of the Senate from 11:28 a.m. until 7:22 p.m. while Vice President George H. W. Bush served as Acting President pursuant to President Ronald Reagan's invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to declare his temporary incapacity while undergoing surgery.
  5. ^ Byrd was the presiding officer of the Senate from 7:09 a.m. until 9:24 a.m. while Vice President Dick Cheney served as Acting President pursuant to President George W. Bush's invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to declare his temporary incapacity while undergoing a colonoscopy that required sedation.
  6. ^ Byrd was the presiding officer of the Senate from 7:16 a.m. until 9:21 a.m. while Vice President Dick Cheney served as Acting President pursuant to President George W. Bush's invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to declare his temporary incapacity while undergoing a colonoscopy that required sedation.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Vice President of the United States (President of the Senate)". senate.gov. United States Senate. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "President Pro Tempore". senate.gov. United States Senate. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  3. ^ Gerhardt, Michael J. "Essay on Trial of Impeachment". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  4. ^ See "From the Closing Arguments of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens". University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 11 May 2020. during the trial of President Johnson and a transcript of Day 17 of the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton