Seniority in the United States Senate

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United States senators are conventionally ranked by the length of their tenure in the Senate. The senator in each U.S. state with the longer time in office is known as the senior senator; the other is the junior senator. This convention has no official standing, though seniority confers several benefits, including preference in the choice of committee assignments and physical offices. When senators have been in office for the same length of time, a number of tiebreakers, including previous offices held, are used to determine seniority.

Contents

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 benefits, including the following:

Determining the beginning of a term

The beginning of an appointment does not necessarily coincide with the date the Senate convenes or when the new senator is sworn in. [1]

General elections

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.

Run-off elections and special elections

In the case of senators elected in a run-off election occurring after the commencement of a new term, or a special election, their seniority date will be the date they are sworn in and not the first day of that Congress.

Appointments

The seniority date for an appointed senator is usually the date of the appointment,[ citation needed ] although the actual term does not begin until they take the oath of office. An incoming senator who holds another office, including membership in the U.S. House of Representatives, must resign from that office before becoming a senator.

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, seniority is determined by prior federal or state government service and, if necessary, the amount of time spent in the tiebreaking office. These tiebreakers in order are: [1]

  1. Former senator
  2. Former president of the United States Senate
  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

When more than one senator had such office, its length of time is used to break the tie. For instance, Roy Blunt, Jerry Moran, Rob Portman, John Boozman, Pat Toomey, John Hoeven, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Richard Blumenthal and Mike Lee took office on January 3, 2011. The first five senators mentioned had served in the House of Representatives: Blunt and Moran had served for 14 years; Portman for 12; Boozman for nine; Toomey for six. Blunt outranks Moran because Missouri was ranked above Kansas by population in the 2000 census. As a former governor, Hoeven is ranked immediately after the former House members. The rest are ranked by population as of the 2000 census. These ranked from 40th to 50th in seniority when the 117th United States Congress convened.

Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of Georgia, were inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Because they were both newly elected senators with no previous government service from the same state, they tied on all criteria, so the Democratic caucus considers Ossoff the senior senator because his name comes first alphabetically. [2]

Current seniority list

Only relevant factors are listed below. For senators whose seniority is based on their state's respective population, the state population ranking is given as determined by the relevant United States Census current at the time that they began service. [3] [4] [5]

   Republican (50)      Democratic (48)      Independent (2)

Current
rank
Historical
rank [lower-alpha 1] [1]
SenatorPartyStateSeniority dateOther factorsCommittee and leadership positions
11692 Patrick Leahy Democratic Vermont January 3, 1975 President Pro Tempore
Chair: Appropriations
21743 Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa January 3, 1981 President Pro Tempore Emeritus
Ranking Member: Finance
31766 Mitch McConnell Republican Kentucky January 3, 1985 Senate Minority Leader
41775 Richard Shelby Republican [lower-alpha 2] Alabama January 3, 1987Ranking Member: Appropriations
51801 Dianne Feinstein Democratic California November 4, 1992
61810 Patty Murray Democratic Washington January 3, 1993Chair: HELP
71816 Jim Inhofe Republican Oklahoma November 16, 1994Ranking Member: Armed Services
81827 Ron Wyden Democratic Oregon February 6, 1996Chair: Finance
91831 Dick Durbin Democratic Illinois January 3, 1997Former House member (14 years) Senate Majority Whip
Chair: Judiciary
101835 Jack Reed Democratic Rhode Island Former House member (6 years)Chair: Armed Services
111842 Susan Collins Republican Maine Ranking Member: Aging
121844 Chuck Schumer Democratic New York January 3, 1999Former House member (18 years) Senate Majority Leader
131846 Mike Crapo Republican Idaho Former House member (6 years)Ranking Member: Banking
141855 Tom Carper Democratic Delaware January 3, 2001Former House member (10 years)Chair: Environment
151856 Debbie Stabenow Democratic Michigan Former House member (4 years)Chair: Agriculture
161859 Maria Cantwell [lower-alpha 3] Democratic Washington Former House member (2 years)Chair: Commerce
171867 John Cornyn Republican Texas December 2, 2002
181868 Lisa Murkowski Republican Alaska December 20, 2002 [lower-alpha 4] Ranking Member: Energy and Natural Resources
191870 Lindsey Graham Republican South Carolina January 3, 2003Ranking Member: Judiciary
201876 Richard Burr Republican North Carolina January 3, 2005Former House member (10 years)
211879 John Thune Republican South Dakota Former House member (6 years) Senate Minority Whip
221885 Bob Menendez Democratic New Jersey January 17, 2006 [lower-alpha 4]  Chair: Foreign Relations
231886 Ben Cardin Democratic Maryland January 3, 2007Former House member (20 years)Chair: Small Business
241887 Bernie Sanders Independent Vermont Former House member (16 years)Chair: Budget
251888 Sherrod Brown Democratic Ohio Former House member (14 years)Chair: Banking
261890 Bob Casey Jr. Democratic Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)Chair: Aging
271893 Amy Klobuchar Democratic Minnesota Minnesota 21st in population (2000)Chair: Rules and Administration
281894 Sheldon Whitehouse Democratic Rhode Island Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
291895 Jon Tester Democratic Montana Montana 44th in population (2000)Chair: Veteran Affairs
301896 John Barrasso Republican Wyoming June 22, 2007 [lower-alpha 4] Ranking Member: Environment
311897 Roger Wicker Republican Mississippi December 31, 2007 [lower-alpha 4] Ranking Member: Commerce
321901 Jeanne Shaheen Democratic New Hampshire January 3, 2009Former governor (6 years)
331902 Mark Warner Democratic Virginia Former governor (4 years)Chair: Intelligence
341903 Jim Risch Republican Idaho Former governor (7 months)
351905 Jeff Merkley Democratic Oregon
361909 Michael Bennet Democratic Colorado January 21, 2009 [lower-alpha 4]
371910 Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic New York January 26, 2009 [lower-alpha 4]
381916 Joe Manchin Democratic West Virginia November 15, 2010Former governorChair: Energy and Natural Resources
391917 Chris Coons Democratic Delaware Chair: Ethics
401919 Roy Blunt Republican Missouri January 3, 2011Former House member (14 years);
Missouri 17th in population (2000)
Ranking Member: Rules and Administration
411920 Jerry Moran Republican Kansas Former House member (14 years);
Kansas 33rd in population (2000)
421921 Rob Portman Republican Ohio Former House member (12 years)
431922 John Boozman Republican Arkansas Former House member (9 years)
441923 Pat Toomey Republican Pennsylvania Former House member (6 years)
451924 John Hoeven Republican North Dakota Former governorRanking Member: Indian Affairs
461925 Marco Rubio Republican Florida Florida 4th in population (2000)Vice Chair: Intelligence
471926 Ron Johnson Republican Wisconsin Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)Ranking Member: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
481927 Rand Paul Republican Kentucky Kentucky 25th in population (2000)
491928 Richard Blumenthal Democratic Connecticut Connecticut 29th in population (2000)
501929 Mike Lee Republican Utah Utah 34th in population (2000)
511932 Brian Schatz Democratic Hawaii December 26, 2012 [lower-alpha 4]
521933 Tim Scott Republican South Carolina January 2, 2013 [lower-alpha 4]
531934 Tammy Baldwin Democratic Wisconsin January 3, 2013Former House member (14 years)
541937 Chris Murphy Democratic Connecticut Former House member (6 years);
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
551938 Mazie Hirono Democratic Hawaii Former House member (6 years);
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
561939 Martin Heinrich Democratic New Mexico Former House member (4 years)
571940 Angus King Independent Maine Former governor (8 years)
581941 Tim Kaine Democratic Virginia Former governor (4 years)
591942 Ted Cruz Republican Texas Texas 2nd in population (2010)
601943 Elizabeth Warren Democratic Massachusetts Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)
611944 Deb Fischer Republican Nebraska Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
621948 Ed Markey Democratic Massachusetts July 16, 2013
631949 Cory Booker Democratic New Jersey October 31, 2013
641951 Shelley Moore Capito Republican West Virginia January 3, 2015Former House member (14 years)
651952 Gary Peters Democratic Michigan Former House member (6 years);
Michigan 8th in population (2010)
Chair: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
661953 Bill Cassidy Republican Louisiana Former House member (6 years);
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
671955 James Lankford Republican Oklahoma Former House member (4 years)Ranking Member: Ethics
681956 Tom Cotton Republican Arkansas Former House member (2 years);
Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
691957 Steve Daines Republican Montana Former House member (2 years);
Montana 44th in population (2010)
701958 Mike Rounds Republican South Dakota Former governor
711960 Thom Tillis Republican North Carolina North Carolina 10th in population (2010)
721961 Joni Ernst Republican Iowa Iowa 30th in population (2010)
731962 Ben Sasse Republican Nebraska Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
741963 Dan Sullivan Republican Alaska Alaska 47th in population (2010)
751964 Chris Van Hollen Democratic Maryland January 3, 2017Former House member (14 years)
761965 Todd Young Republican Indiana Former House member (6 years)
771966 Tammy Duckworth Democratic Illinois Former House member (4 years)
781967 Maggie Hassan Democratic New Hampshire Former governor
791969 John Neely Kennedy Republican Louisiana Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
801970 Catherine Cortez Masto Democratic Nevada Nevada 35th in population (2010)
811972 Tina Smith Democratic Minnesota January 3, 2018 [lower-alpha 4]
821974 Cindy Hyde-Smith Republican Mississippi April 2, 2018 [lower-alpha 4]
831975 Marsha Blackburn Republican Tennessee January 3, 2019Former House member (16 years)
841976 Kyrsten Sinema Democratic Arizona Former House member (6 years);
Arizona 16th in population (2010)
851977 Kevin Cramer Republican North Dakota Former House member (6 years);
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
861979 Jacky Rosen Democratic Nevada Former House member (2 years)
871980 Mitt Romney Republican Utah Former governor
881981 Mike Braun Republican Indiana Indiana 15th in population (2010)
891982 Josh Hawley Republican Missouri Missouri 18th in population (2010)
901983 Rick Scott Republican Florida January 8, 2019
911985 Mark Kelly Democratic Arizona December 2, 2020
921986 Ben Ray Luján Democratic New Mexico January 3, 2021Former House member (12 years)
931987 Cynthia Lummis Republican Wyoming Former House member (8 years)
941988 Roger Marshall Republican Kansas Former House member (4 years)
951989 John Hickenlooper Democratic Colorado Former governor
961990 Bill Hagerty Republican Tennessee Tennessee 17th in population (2010)
971991 Tommy Tuberville Republican Alabama Alabama 23rd in population (2010)
981992 Alex Padilla Democratic California January 20, 2021 [1] California 1st in population (2010)
991993 Jon Ossoff [lower-alpha 5] Democratic Georgia Georgia 9th in population (2010)
1001994 Raphael Warnock Democratic Georgia
RankHistorical
rank [lower-alpha 1] [1]
SenatorPartyStateSeniority dateOther factorsCommittee and leadership positions

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 "Historical rank" refers to the senator's seniority over the entire history of the Senate since 1789, i.e. their position in the chronological ordering of all senators. This is an absolute number that does not change from one Congress to the next.
  2. Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
  3. Maria Cantwell (#16) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 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.
  5. Jon Ossoff (#99) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Senators of the United States 1789–present, A chronological list of senators since the First Congress in 1789" (PDF). Senate Historical Office. January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  2. Bluestein, Greg. "'A new era': Ossoff, Warnock sworn into office, giving Democrats control of U.S. Senate". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  3. "1991 U.S Census Report" (PDF).
  4. American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2000 Census State Population Rankings". Factfinder.census.gov. Archived from the original on April 3, 2009. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
  5. "Resident Population Data (Text Version) – 2010 Census, by state and census region".