Seniority in the United States Senate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Seniority in the United States Senate is valuable as it confers a number of benefits 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[edit]

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.

The president pro tempore of the Senate is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party.

There are several benefits, 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[edit]

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.[citation needed] Since 1935, that means January 3 of odd-numbered years.

The seniority date for an appointed senator is the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office.[citation needed] In the case of Senators taking vacant seats in special elections, the term begins on Election Day.[citation needed] However, in both of these cases, if the incoming Senator is a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, he/she must resign from the House before her/his term in the Senate begins.

Determining length of seniority[edit]

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, seniority is determined by prior federal or state government service. These tiebreakers in order are:[1]

  1. Former Senator
  2. Former Vice President
  3. Former House member
  4. Former Cabinet secretary
  5. Former state Governor
  6. Population of state based on the most recent census when the senator took office
  7. 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 larger than Nevada's at the 1980 census.

Current seniority list[edit]

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.[2][3][4][5]

  Republican R (54)       Democratic D (44)       Independent I (2)

Seniority date First tie-breaker Second tie-breaker Committee and leadership positions
1 1692 Patrick Leahy
January 3, 1975 President pro tempore emeritus
Ranking Member: Judiciary
2 1708 Orrin Hatch
January 3, 1977 President pro tempore
Chairman: Finance
3 1719 Thad Cochran
December 27, 1978[n 1] Chairman: Appropriations
4 1745 Chuck Grassley
January 3, 1981 Chairman: Judiciary
5 1766 Mitch McConnell
January 3, 1985 Majority Leader
6 1773 Barbara Mikulski
January 3, 1987 Former Representative (10 years) Ranking Member: Appropriations
7 1775 Richard Shelby
R-Alabama[n 2]
Former Representative (8 years) Chairman: Banking
8 1777 John McCain
Former Representative (4 years) Arizona 29th in population (1980) Chairman: Armed Services
9 1778 Harry Reid
Nevada 43rd in population (1980) Minority Leader
Democratic Caucus Chair
10 1801 Dianne Feinstein
November 4, 1992     Ranking Member: Intelligence
11 1804 Barbara Boxer[n 3]
January 3, 1993 Former Representative Ranking Member: Environment
Vice Chairwoman: Ethics
12 1810 Patty Murray
Ranking Member: HELP
Democratic Caucus Secretary
13 1816 Jim Inhofe
November 16, 1994 Chairman: Environment
14 1827 Ron Wyden
February 6, 1996 Ranking Member: Finance
15 1830 Pat Roberts
January 3, 1997 Former Representative (16 years) Chairman: Agriculture
16 1831 Dick Durbin
Former Representative (14 years) Minority Whip
17 1835 Jack Reed
D-Rhode Island
Former Representative (6 years) Ranking Member: Armed Services
18 1839 Jeff Sessions
Alabama 22nd in population (1990)  
19 1842 Susan Collins
Maine 38th in population (1990) Chairwoman: Aging
20 1843 Mike Enzi
Wyoming 50th in population (1990) Chairman: Budget
21 1844 Chuck Schumer
D-New York
January 3, 1999 Former Representative (18 years) Ranking Member: Rules
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
Democratic Policy Chair
22 1846 Mike Crapo
Former Representative (6 years)  
23 1854 Bill Nelson
January 3, 2001 Former Representative (12 years) Ranking Member: Commerce
24 1855 Tom Carper
Former Representative (10 years) Ranking Member: Homeland Security
25 1856 Debbie Stabenow
Former Representative (4 years) Ranking Member: Agriculture
Democratic Policy Vice Chair
26 1859 Maria Cantwell
Former Representative (2 years) Ranking Member: Energy
27 1873 Lisa Murkowski
December 20, 2002   Chairwoman: Energy
28 1867 Lindsey Graham
R-South Carolina
January 3, 2003 Former Representative  
29 1869 Lamar Alexander
Former Cabinet member Chairman: HELP
30 1871 John Cornyn[n 4]
Majority Whip
31 1876 Richard Burr
R-North Carolina
January 3, 2005 Former Representative (10 years) Chairman: Intelligence
32 1879 John Thune
R-South Dakota
Former Representative (6 years) Chairman: Commerce
Republican Conference Chairman
33 1880 Johnny Isakson
Former Representative (5 yrs., 10 mos.) Chairman: Veterans' Affairs
Chairman: Ethics
34 1881 David Vitter
Former Representative (5 yrs., 7 mos.) Chairman: Small Business
35 1885 Bob Menendez
D-New Jersey
January 17, 2006[n 1]  
36 1886 Ben Cardin
January 3, 2007 Former Representative (20 years) Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
37 1887 Bernie Sanders
I-Vermont[n 5]
Former Representative (16 years) Ranking Member: Budget
38 1888 Sherrod Brown
Former Representative (14 years) Ranking Member: Banking
39 1890 Bob Casey, Jr.
Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)  
40 1891 Bob Corker
Tennessee 16th in population (2000) Chairman: Foreign Relations
41 1892 Claire McCaskill
Missouri 17th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Aging
42 1893 Amy Klobuchar
Minnesota 21st in population (2000)
43 1894 Sheldon Whitehouse
D-Rhode Island
Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
44 1895 Jon Tester
Montana 44th in population (2000) Vice Chairman: Indian Affairs
Chairman: DSCC
45 1896 John Barrasso
June 22, 2007 Chairman: Indian Affairs
Republican Policy Chair
46 1897 Roger Wicker
December 31, 2007[n 1] Chairman: NRSC
47 1899 Tom Udall
D-New Mexico
January 3, 2009 Former Representative  
48 1901 Jeanne Shaheen
D-New Hampshire
Former Governor (6 years) Ranking Member: Small Business
49 1902 Mark Warner
Former Governor (4 years)
50 1903 Jim Risch
Former Governor (7 months)
51 1905 Jeff Merkley
52 1909 Michael Bennet
January 21, 2009[n 1]
53 1910 Kirsten Gillibrand
D-New York
January 26, 2009[n 1]
54 1911 Al Franken
July 7, 2009[n 6]
55 1916 Joe Manchin
D-West Virginia
November 15, 2010 Former Governor
56 1917 Chris Coons
57 1918 Mark Kirk
November 29, 2010
58 1785 Dan Coats
January 3, 2011 Former Senator[n 7]
59 1919 Roy Blunt
Former Representative (14 years) Missouri 17th in population (2000) Chairman: Rules
Republican Conference Vice Chair
60 1920 Jerry Moran
Kansas 33rd in population (2000)
61 1921 Rob Portman
Former Representative (12 years)
62 1922 John Boozman
Former Representative (10 years)
63 1923 Pat Toomey
Former Representative (6 years)
64 1924 John Hoeven
R-North Dakota
Former Governor
65 1925 Marco Rubio
Florida 4th in population (2000)
66 1926 Ron Johnson
Wisconsin 20th in population (2000) Chairman: Homeland Security
67 1927 Rand Paul
Kentucky 25th in population (2000)  
68 1928 Richard Blumenthal
Connecticut 29th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
69 1929 Mike Lee
Utah 34th in population (2000)  
70 1930 Kelly Ayotte
R-New Hampshire
New Hampshire 42nd in population (2000)
71 1931 Dean Heller
May 9, 2011
72 1932 Brian Schatz
December 26, 2012[n 1]
73 1933 Tim Scott
R-South Carolina
January 2, 2013[n 1]
74 1934 Tammy Baldwin
January 3, 2013 Former Representative (14 years)
75 1935 Jeff Flake
Former Representative (12 years)
76 1936 Joe Donnelly
Former Representative (6 years) Indiana 15th in population (2010)
77 1937 Chris Murphy
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
78 1938 Mazie Hirono
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
79 1939 Martin Heinrich
D-New Mexico
Former Representative (4 years)  
80 1940 Angus King
Former Governor (8 years)
81 1941 Tim Kaine
Former Governor (4 years)
82 1942 Ted Cruz
Texas 2nd in population (2010)
83 1943 Elizabeth Warren
Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)
84 1944 Deb Fischer[n 8]
Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
85 1945 Heidi Heitkamp
D-North Dakota
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
86 1948 Ed Markey
July 16, 2013
87 1949 Cory Booker
D-New Jersey
October 31, 2013
88 1951 Shelley Moore Capito
R-West Virginia
January 3, 2015 Former Representative (14 years)
89 1952 Gary Peters
Former Representative (6 years) Michigan 8th in population (2010)
90 1953 Bill Cassidy
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
91 1954 Cory Gardner
Former Representative (4 years) Colorado 22nd in population (2010)
92 1955 James Lankford
Oklahoma 28th in population (2010)
93 1956 Tom Cotton
Former Representative (2 years) Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
94 1957 Steve Daines
Montana 44th in population (2010)
95 1958 Mike Rounds
R-South Dakota
Former Governor
96 1959 David Perdue
Georgia 9th in population (2010)
97 1960 Thom Tillis
R-North Carolina
North Carolina 10th in population (2010)
98 1961 Joni Ernst
Iowa 30th in population (2010)
99 1962 Ben Sasse
Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
100 1963 Dan Sullivan
Alaska 47th in population (2010)
Rank Historical
Seniority date First tie-breaker Second tie-breaker Committee and leadership positions

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  2. ^ Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
  3. ^ Barbara Boxer (#11) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Although Sanders was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, and has voted with the Democratic Party for organizational purposes throughout his time in Congress, he has never been a Democratic Senator.
  6. ^ 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.[6]
  7. ^ Dan Coats previously served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999.
  8. ^ Deb Fischer (#84) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.


  1. ^ a b "Senators of the United States 1789-present, A chronological list of senators since the First Congress in 1789" (PDF). Senate Historical Office. April 17, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  2. ^ "1981 U.S Census Report" (PDF). 
  3. ^ "1991 U.S Census Report" (PDF). 
  4. ^ American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2000 Census State Population Rankings". Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Resident Population Data (Text Version) - 2010 Census, by state and census region". 
  6. ^ 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.