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The Senate Democratic Caucus (or Conference) is the formal organization of the current 58 Democratic Senators in the United States Senate. In the 111th Congress, the Democratic Caucus additionally includes two independent senators who formally caucus with the Democrats for the purpose of committee assignments and Senate organization, bringing the total to 60. The primary organizational front for Democrats in the Senate, its primary function is communicating the party's message to and unifying all of its members. Caucus leadership consists of Senator Harry Reid (NV) as Chairman and Senate Majority Leader, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) as Whip or Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Charles Schumer (NY) as Vice-Chairman, and Senator Patty Murray (WA) as Secretary. The two independent members are Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.



The Caucus was formally organized on March 6, 1903, electing a chairman to preside over its members and a secretary to keep minutes. Until that time, the caucus was often disorganized, philosophically divided, and had neither firm written rules of governance nor a clear mission.


111th Congress

The 111th Congress opened on January 3, 2009 with 55 Democrats and two independents in the caucus, for a total of 57 members. The membership total has changed several times since then:

  • Membership increased to 58 on January 12, 2009, when Roland Burris was sworn in to fill the seat that had been vacated by then-President-elect Barack Obama, who had resigned from the Senate on November 16, 2008 after being elected President.
  • The party change of Arlen Specter (from Republican to Democratic) on April 28, 2009 brought the total to 59.
  • When Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was sworn in on July 7, 2009, membership increased to 60.
  • Membership dropped back to 59 at the death of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy on August 26th.
  • Membership increased back to 60 on the swearing-in of Paul G. Kirk, the designated interim replacement for Ted Kennedy, on September 24.

List of caucus chairpersons

Vice Chairmanship

After the victory of Democrats in the Midterm Elections of 2006, an overwhelming majority of the caucus thought of rewarding Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a position in the hierarchy after knocking off six incumbent Republicans. In response, Democratic Leader Harry Reid created a position of the Vice Chairman, making it the third ranking Democratic position, after Leader and Whip.


  1. ^ Gorman was the first elected by a formally organized caucus. See
  2. ^ Beginning in 1920, the Democratic Conference chairperson also served as Democratic floor leader. In that year, Oscar Underwood became the first officially designated Democratic floor leader, and the tradition of combining the two positions continues to this day.


  • Donald A. Ritchie (ed). Minutes of the Senate Democratic Conference: Fifty-eighth through Eighty-eighth Congress, 1903-1964. Washington, D.C., GPO, 1999. Available online in PDF or Text format.

External links


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