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Seniority in the United States Senate

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 1
  • Determination of seniority 2
  • Current seniority list 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

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, 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.

Determination 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:[1]

  1. Former Senator
  2. Former Representative
  3. Former President of the United States
  4. Former Vice President of the United States
  5. Former Cabinet member
  6. Former state Governor
  7. Population of state based on the most recent census when the senator took office
  8. 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.[2][3][4][5]

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
Chair: Judiciary
2 Orrin Hatch (R-UT) January 3, 1977 Ranking Member: Finance
3 Thad Cochran (R-MS) December 27, 1978[n 1] Ranking Member: Agriculture
4 Carl Levin (D-MI) January 3, 1979 Chair: Armed Services
5 Chuck Grassley (R-IA) January 3, 1981 Ranking Member: Judiciary
6 Tom Harkin[n 2] (D-IA) January 3, 1985 Former Representative Chair: H.E.L.P.
7 Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Minority Leader
8 Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) January 15, 1985 Chair: Commerce
9 Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) January 3, 1987 Former Representative (10 years) Chair: Appropriations
10 Richard Shelby (R[n 3]-AL) Former Representative (8 years) Ranking Member: Appropriations
11 John McCain (R-AZ) Former Representative (4 years) Arizona 29th in population (1980)
12 Harry Reid (D-NV) Nevada 43rd in population (1980) Majority Leader
Democratic Caucus Chair
13 Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) November 4, 1992 Chair: Intelligence
14 Barbara Boxer (D-CA) January 3, 1993 Former Representative Chair: Environment and Public Works
Chair: Ethics
15 Patty Murray (D-WA) Democratic Conference Secretary
Chair: Budget
16 Jim Inhofe (R-OK) November 16, 1994 Ranking Member: Armed Services
17 Ron Wyden (D-OR) February 6, 1996 Chair: Finance
18 Pat Roberts (R-KS) January 3, 1997 Former Representative (16 years) Ranking Member: Rules
19 Dick Durbin (D-IL) Former Representative (14 years) Majority Whip
20 Tim Johnson (D-SD) Former Representative (10 years) Chair: Banking
21 Jack Reed (D-RI) Former Representative (6 years)
22 Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Louisiana 21st in population (1990) Chair: Energy
23 Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Alabama 22nd in population (1990) Ranking Member: Budget
24 Susan Collins (R-ME) Maine 38th in population (1990) Ranking Member: Aging
25 Mike Enzi (R-WY) Wyoming 50th in population (1990)
26 Chuck Schumer (D-NY) January 3, 1999 Former Representative (18 years) Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
Democratic Policy Chair
Chair: Rules
27 Mike Crapo (R-ID) Former Representative (6 years) Ranking Member: Banking
28 Bill Nelson (D-FL) January 3, 2001 Former Representative (12 years) Chair: Aging
29 Tom Carper (D-DE) Former Representative (10 years) Chair: Homeland Security
30 Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Former Representative (4 years) Chair: Agriculture
31 Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Former Representative (2 years) Chair: Small Business
32 Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) December 20, 2002 Ranking Member: Energy
33 Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) January 3, 2003 Former Representative (8 years) Georgia 10th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Intelligence
34 Lindsey Graham (R-SC) South Carolina 26th in population (2000)
35 Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Former Cabinet member Ranking Member: H.E.L.P.
36 John Cornyn[n 4] (R-TX) Texas 2nd in population (2000) Minority Whip
37 Mark Pryor (D-AR) Arkansas 33rd in population (2000)
38 Richard Burr (R-NC) January 3, 2005 Former Representative (10 years) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
39 Tom Coburn (R-OK) Former Representative (6 years) Oklahoma 27th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Homeland Security
40 John Thune (R-SD) South Dakota 46th in population (2000) Republican Conference Chair
Ranking Member: Commerce
41 Johnny Isakson (R-GA) Former Representative (5 yrs., 10 mos.) Ranking Member: Ethics
42 David Vitter (R-LA) Former Representative (5 yrs., 7 mos.) Ranking Member: Environment
43 Bob Menendez (D-NJ) January 17, 2006[n 1] Chair: Foreign Relations
44 Ben Cardin (D-MD) January 3, 2007 Former Representative (20 years)
45 Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Former Representative (16 years) Chair: Veterans' Affairs
46 Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Former Representative (14 years)
47 Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)
48 Bob Corker (R-TN) Tennessee 16th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
49 Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Missouri 17th in population (2000)
50 Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Minnesota 21st in population (2000)
51 Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
52 Jon Tester (D-MT) Montana 44th in population (2000) Chair: Indian Affairs
53 John Barrasso (R-WY) June 22, 2007 Republican Policy Chair
Ranking Member: Indian Affairs
54 Roger Wicker (R-MS) December 31, 2007[n 1]
55 Mark Udall (D-CO) January 3, 2009 Former Representative (10 years) Colorado 24th in population (2000)
56 Tom Udall (D-NM) New Mexico 36th in population (2000)
57 Mike Johanns (R-NE) Former Cabinet member
58 Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Former Governor (6 years)
59 Mark Warner (D-VA) Former Governor (4 years)
60 Jim Risch (R-ID) Former Governor (7 months) Ranking Member: Small Business
61 Kay Hagan (D-NC) North Carolina 11th in population (2000)
62 Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Oregon 28th in population (2000)
63 Mark Begich (D-AK) Alaska 48th in population (2000)
64 Michael Bennet (D-CO) January 21, 2009[n 1] Chair: DSCC
65 Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) January 26, 2009[n 5]
66 Al Franken (D-MN) July 7, 2009[n 6]
67 Joe Manchin (D-WV) November 15, 2010 Former Governor
68 Chris Coons (D-DE)
69 Mark Kirk (R-IL) November 29, 2010
70 Dan Coats (R-IN) January 3, 2011 Former Senator[n 7]
71 Roy Blunt (R-MO) Former Representative (14 years) Missouri 17th in population (2000) Republican Conference Vice Chair
72 Jerry Moran (R-KS) Kansas 33rd in population (2000) Chair: NRSC
73 Rob Portman (R-OH) Former Representative (12 years)
74 John Boozman (R-AR) Former Representative (10 years)
75 Pat Toomey (R-PA) Former Representative (6 years)
76 John Hoeven (R-ND) Former Governor
77 Marco Rubio (R-FL) Florida 4th in population (2000)
78 Ron Johnson (R-WI) Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)
79 Rand Paul (R-KY) Kentucky 25th in population (2000)
80 Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Connecticut 29th in population (2000)
81 Mike Lee (R-UT) Utah 34th in population (2000)
82 Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) New Hampshire 42nd in population (2000)
83 Dean Heller (R-NV) May 9, 2011
84 Brian Schatz (D-HI) December 26, 2012[n 1]
85 Tim Scott (R-SC) January 2, 2013[n 1]
86 Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) January 3, 2013 Former Representative (14 years)
87 Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Former Representative (12 years)
88 Joe Donnelly (D-IN) Former Representative (6 years) Indiana 15th in population (2010)
89 Chris Murphy (D-CT) Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
90 Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
91 Martin Heinrich (D-NM) Former Representative (4 years)
92 Angus King (I-ME) Former Governor (8 years)
93 Tim Kaine (D-VA) Former Governor (4 years)
94 Ted Cruz (R-TX) Texas 2nd in population (2010)
95 Elizabeth Warren[n 8] (D-MA) Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)
96 Deb Fischer (R-NE) Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
97 Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
98 Ed Markey (D-MA) July 16, 2013
99 Cory Booker (D-NJ) October 31, 2013
100 John Walsh (D-MT) February 9, 2014[n 1]
Rank Senator Seniority date First tie-breaker Second tie-breaker Committee and leadership positions

See also


  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.
  2. ^ Tom Harkin is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  3. ^ Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
  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. ^ 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.
  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. ^ Elizabeth Warren is the Senate's most junior senior senator.


  1. ^ "A Chronological List of United States Senators 1789–present". Senate Historical Office. 
  2. ^ 1981 U.S Census Report Contains 1980 Census results.
  3. ^ 1991 U.S Census Report Contains 1990 Census results.
  4. ^ American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2000 Census State Population Rankings". Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ Resident Population Data (Text Version) – 2010 Census Contains 1910 to 2010 results 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. 

External links

  • "United States Senate Periodical Press Gallery". May 2011. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
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