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.
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, and not already holding a conflicting position such as chairmanship of another 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.
Determining the beginning of a term
A term does not necessarily coincide with the date the Senate convenes or when the new Senator is sworn in.
In the case of Senators first elected in a general election for the upcoming Congress, their terms begin on the first day of the new Congress. Since 1935, that means January 3 of odd-numbered years).
Terms do not start until the appointee is eligible. For example, an incoming Senator who is a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives must resign from the House before the Senate begins.
The seniority date for an appointed senator is the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office.
In the case Senators taking vacant seats in special elections, the term starts from the date that both the election is certified and the Senator-elect is eligible.
Determining length of seniority
A senator's seniority is primarily determined by length of continuous service; for example, 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 outranks Reid because Arizona's population was higher than Nevada's at 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 current at the time they first took their seat.
|Rank||Senator||Seniority date||First tie-breaker||Second tie-breaker||Committee and leadership positions|
|1||Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||January 3, 1975||Ranking Member: Judiciary|
|2||Orrin Hatch (R-UT)||January 3, 1977||President pro tempore
|3||Thad Cochran (R-MS)||December 27, 1978[n 1]||Chair: Appropriations|
|4||Chuck Grassley (R-IA)||January 3, 1981||Chair: Judiciary|
|5||Mitch McConnell (R-KY)||January 3, 1985||Majority Leader|
|6||Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)||January 3, 1987||Former Representative (10 years)||Ranking Member: Appropriations|
|7||Richard Shelby (R[n 2]-AL)||Former Representative (8 years)||Chair: Banking|
|8||John McCain (R-AZ)||Former Representative (4 years)||Arizona 29th in population (1980)||Chair: Armed Services|
|9||Harry Reid (D-NV)||Nevada 43rd in population (1980)||Minority Leader
Democratic Caucus Chair
|10||Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)||November 4, 1992||Ranking Member: Intelligence|
|11||Barbara Boxer[n 3] (D-CA)||January 3, 1993||Former Representative||Ranking Member: Environment
Vice Chair: Ethics
|12||Patty Murray (D-WA)||Ranking Member: HELP
Democratic Caucus Secretary
|13||Jim Inhofe (R-OK)||November 16, 1994||Chair: Environment|
|14||Ron Wyden (D-OR)||February 6, 1996||Ranking Member: Finance|
|15||Pat Roberts (R-KS)||January 3, 1997||Former Representative (16 years)||Chair: Agriculture|
|16||Dick Durbin (D-IL)||Former Representative (14 years)||Minority Whip|
|17||Jack Reed (D-RI)||Former Representative (6 years)||Ranking Member: Armed Services|
|18||Jeff Sessions (R-AL)||Alabama 22nd in population (1990)|
|19||Susan Collins (R-ME)||Maine 38th in population (1990)||Chair: Aging|
|20||Mike Enzi (R-WY)||Wyoming 50th in population (1990)||Chair: Budget|
|21||Chuck Schumer (D-NY)||January 3, 1999||Former Representative (18 years)||Ranking Member: Rules
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
Democratic Policy Chair
|22||Mike Crapo (R-ID)||Former Representative (6 years)|
|23||Bill Nelson (D-FL)||January 3, 2001||Former Representative (12 years)||Ranking Member: Commerce|
|24||Tom Carper (D-DE)||Former Representative (10 years)||Ranking Member: Homeland Security|
|25||Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)||Former Representative (4 years)||Ranking Member: Agriculture
Democratic Policy Vice Chair
|26||Maria Cantwell (D-WA)||Former Representative (2 years)||Ranking Member: Energy|
|27||Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)||December 20, 2002||Chair: Energy|
|28||Lindsey Graham (R-SC)||January 3, 2003||Former Representative|
|29||Lamar Alexander (R-TN)||Former Cabinet member||Chair: HELP|
|30||John Cornyn[n 4] (R-TX)||Majority Whip|
|31||Richard Burr (R-NC)||January 3, 2005||Former Representative (10 years)||Chair: Intelligence|
|32||John Thune (R-SD)||Former Representative (6 years)||Chair: Commerce
Republican Conference Chair
|33||Johnny Isakson (R-GA)||Former Representative (5 yrs., 10 mos.)||Chair: Veterans' Affairs
|34||David Vitter (R-LA)||Former Representative (5 yrs., 7 mos.)||Chair: Small Business|
|35||Bob Menendez (D-NJ)||January 17, 2006[n 1]|
|36||Ben Cardin (D-MD)||January 3, 2007||Former Representative (20 years)||Ranking Member: Foreign Relations|
|37||Bernie Sanders (I-VT)||Former Representative (16 years)||Ranking Member: Budget|
|38||Sherrod Brown (D-OH)||Former Representative (14 years)||Ranking Member: Banking|
|39||Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)||Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)|
|40||Bob Corker (R-TN)||Tennessee 16th in population (2000)||Chair: Foreign Relations|
|41||Claire McCaskill (D-MO)||Missouri 17th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Aging|
|42||Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)||Minnesota 21st in population (2000)|
|43||Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)||Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)|
|44||Jon Tester (D-MT)||Montana 44th in population (2000)||Chair: DSCC
Vice Chair: Indian Affairs
|45||John Barrasso (R-WY)||June 22, 2007||Chair: Indian Affairs
Republican Policy Chair
|46||Roger Wicker (R-MS)||December 31, 2007[n 1]||Chair: NRSC|
|47||Tom Udall (D-NM)||January 3, 2009||Former Representative|
|48||Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)||Former Governor (6 years)||Ranking Member: Small Business|
|49||Mark Warner (D-VA)||Former Governor (4 years)|
|50||Jim Risch (R-ID)||Former Governor (7 months)|
|51||Jeff Merkley (D-OR)|
|52||Michael Bennet (D-CO)||January 21, 2009[n 1]|
|53||Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)||January 26, 2009[n 1]|
|54||Al Franken (D-MN)||July 7, 2009[n 5]|
|55||Joe Manchin (D-WV)||November 15, 2010||Former Governor|
|56||Chris Coons (D-DE)|
|57||Mark Kirk (R-IL)||November 29, 2010|
|58||Dan Coats (R-IN)||January 3, 2011||Former Senator[n 6]|
|59||Roy Blunt (R-MO)||Former Representative (14 years)||Missouri 17th in population (2000)||Chair: Rules
Republican Conference Vice Chair
|60||Jerry Moran (R-KS)||Kansas 33rd in population (2000)|
|61||Rob Portman (R-OH)||Former Representative (12 years)|
|62||John Boozman (R-AR)||Former Representative (10 years)|
|63||Pat Toomey (R-PA)||Former Representative (6 years)|
|64||John Hoeven (R-ND)||Former Governor|
|65||Marco Rubio (R-FL)||Florida 4th in population (2000)|
|66||Ron Johnson (R-WI)||Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)||Chair: Homeland Security|
|67||Rand Paul (R-KY)||Kentucky 25th in population (2000)|
|68||Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)||Connecticut 29th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs|
|69||Mike Lee (R-UT)||Utah 34th in population (2000)|
|70||Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)||New Hampshire 42nd in population (2000)|
|71||Dean Heller (R-NV)||May 9, 2011|
|72||Brian Schatz (D-HI)||December 26, 2012[n 1]|
|73||Tim Scott (R-SC)||January 2, 2013[n 1]|
|74||Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)||January 3, 2013||Former Representative (14 years)|
|75||Jeff Flake (R-AZ)||Former Representative (12 years)|
|76||Joe Donnelly (D-IN)||Former Representative (6 years)||Indiana 15th in population (2010)|
|77||Chris Murphy (D-CT)||Connecticut 29th in population (2010)|
|78||Mazie Hirono (D-HI)||Hawaii 40th in population (2010)|
|79||Martin Heinrich (D-NM)||Former Representative (4 years)|
|80||Angus King (I-ME)||Former Governor (8 years)|
|81||Tim Kaine (D-VA)||Former Governor (4 years)|
|82||Ted Cruz (R-TX)||Texas 2nd in population (2010)|
|83||Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)||Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)|
|84||Deb Fischer[n 7] (R-NE)||Nebraska 38th in population (2010)|
|85||Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)||North Dakota 48th in population (2010)|
|86||Ed Markey (D-MA)||July 16, 2013|
|87||Cory Booker (D-NJ)||October 31, 2013|
|88||Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)||January 3, 2015||Former Representative (14 years)|
|89||Gary Peters (D-MI)||Former Representative (6 years)||Michigan 8th in population (2010)|
|90||Bill Cassidy (R-LA)||Louisiana 25th in population (2010)|
|91||Cory Gardner (R-CO)||Former Representative (4 years)||Colorado 22nd in population (2010)|
|92||James Lankford (R-OK)||Oklahoma 28th in population (2010)|
|93||Tom Cotton (R-AR)||Former Representative (2 years)||Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)|
|94||Steve Daines (R-MT)||Montana 44th in population (2010)|
|95||Mike Rounds (R-SD)||Former Governor|
|96||David Perdue (R-GA)||Georgia 9th in population (2010)|
|97||Thom Tillis (R-NC)||North Carolina 10th in population (2010)|
|98||Joni Ernst (R-IA)||Iowa 30th in population (2010)|
|99||Ben Sasse (R-NE)||Nebraska 38th in population (2010)|
|100||Dan Sullivan (R-AK)||Alaska 47th in population (2010)|
|Rank||Senator||Seniority date||First tie-breaker||Second tie-breaker||Committee and leadership positions|
- List of current members of the United States House of Representatives by seniority
- List of members of the United States Congress by longevity of service
- The seniority date for an appointed senator is the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office. See Determining the beginning of a term, above.
- Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
- Barbara Boxer (#11) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deb Fischer (#84) 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
- 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.