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Seniority in the United States Senate is based upon a series of ranked factors, only resorting to the next factor when tied.[1]

"Senior senator" and "junior senator" are terms commonly used to describe United States senators. Each state sends two senators to serve in the Senate; the longer (continuously) serving of the two is by convention referred to as the senior senator, and the other is referred to as the junior senator. If both are sworn in on the same day, other factors, as listed below, are considered.


Benefits of seniority

There is no mandated difference in rights or power, although Senate rules give more power to senators with more seniority. Generally, senior senators will have more power, though being a member of the majority party is more advantageous than being senior. In addition, by custom the senior senators from the president's party control federal patronage appointments in their states. Thus being the junior senator is disadvantageous if the senior one is from the same party.

Some of the perquisites of seniority offered by the U.S. Senate:

  • 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. The Ranking member (called vice-chairman in some select committees) of a committee 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.

Factors considered

There are 11 factors considered in calculating seniority:

  1. Amount of consecutive time serving as U.S. senator
  2. Former U.S. senator (non-consecutive)
  3. Length of time serving as a senator in previous non-consecutive terms
  4. Former U.S. representative
  5. Length of time serving as a U.S. representative
  6. Former president
  7. Former vice president
  8. Former cabinet member
  9. Former state governor
  10. Population of state based on the most recent census when the senator took office
  11. Alphabetical by last name (in case two senators came from the same state on the same day and have identical credentials)

When some factors are tied, length of time in a prior office may be used to break a tie.

Current seniority list

The president pro tempore of the Senate is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party. The current president pro tempore, Robert Byrd, is also the dean of the United States Senate.

Only relevant factors are listed below. For instance, Robert Byrd's time with the House of Representatives no longer has any bearing on his seniority, so it is not listed.

For senators whose seniority is based on their states' respective populations, the state population ranking, as determined by the relevant United States Census[2][3][4][5] is given.

Rank Name Seniority date Second factor Third factor Notes
1 Robert Byrd (D-WV) January 3, 1959 Dean of the Senate
President pro tempore
2 Daniel Inouye (D-HI) January 3, 1963 Chair: Appropriations
3 Patrick Leahy (D-VT) January 3, 1975 Chair: Judiciary
4 Richard Lugar (R-IN) January 3, 1977 Indiana 11th in population (1970) Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
5 Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Utah 36th in population (1970)
6 Max Baucus (D-MT) December 15, 1978 Chair: Finance
7 Thad Cochran (R-MS) December 27, 1978 Ranking Member: Appropriations
8 Carl Levin (D-MI) January 3, 1979 Chair: Armed Services
9 Christopher Dodd (D-CT) January 3, 1981 Former U.S. Representative (6 years) Connecticut 24th in population (1970) Chair: Banking
10 Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Iowa 25th in population (1970) Ranking Member: Finance
11 Arlen Specter (D-PA)
12 Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) January 3, 1983 Chair: Energy
13 John Kerry (D-MA) January 2, 1985 Chair: Foreign Relations
14 Tom Harkin[6] (D-IA) January 3, 1985 Former U.S. Representative Chair: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
15 Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Minority Leader
16 Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) January 15, 1985 Chair: Commerce
17 Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) January 3, 1987 Former U.S. Representative (10 years)
18 Richard Shelby (R-AL) Former U.S. Representative (8 years) Ranking Member: Banking
19 John McCain (R-AZ) Former U.S. Representative (4 years) Arizona 29th in population (1980) Ranking Member: Armed Services
20 Harry Reid (D-NV) Nevada 43rd in population (1980) Majority Leader
21 Kit Bond (R-MO) Former governor Ranking Member: Intelligence
22 Kent Conrad (D-ND) Chair: Budget
23 Herb Kohl (D-WI) January 3, 1989 Wisconsin 16th in population (1980) Chair: Aging
24 Joe Lieberman[7] (ID-CT) Connecticut 25th in population (1980) Chair: Homeland Security
25 Daniel Akaka (D-HI) May 16, 1990 Chair: Veterans' Affairs
26 Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) November 10, 1992 Chair: Intelligence
27 Byron Dorgan (D-ND) December 15, 1992 Chair: Indian Affairs
28 Barbara Boxer (D-CA) January 3, 1993 Former U.S. Representative (10 years) Chair: Environment and Public Works
Chair: Ethics
29 Judd Gregg (R-NH) Former U.S. Representative (8 years) Ranking Member: Budget
30 Russ Feingold (D-WI) Wisconsin 16th in population (1990)
31 Patty Murray (D-WA) Washington 18th in population (1990)
32 Bob Bennett (R-UT) Utah 35th in population (1990) Ranking Member: Rules
33 Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) June 14, 1993 Ranking Member: Commerce
34 Jim Inhofe (R-OK) November 17, 1994 Ranking Member: Environment
35 Olympia Snowe (R-ME) January 3, 1995 Former U.S. Representative (16 years) Ranking Member: Small Business
36 Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Former U.S. Representative (8 years) Minority Whip
37 Ron Wyden (D-OR) February 6, 1996
38 Sam Brownback (R-KS) November 7, 1996
39 Pat Roberts (R-KS) January 3, 1997 Former U.S. Representative (16 years)
40 Richard Durbin (D-IL) Former U.S. Representative (14 years) Majority Whip
41 Tim Johnson (D-SD) Former U.S. Representative (10 years)
42 Jack Reed (D-RI) Former U.S. Representative (6 years)
43 Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Louisiana 21st in population (1990) Chair: Small Business
44 Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Alabama 22nd in population (1990) Ranking Member: Judiciary
45 Susan Collins (R-ME) Maine 38th in population (1990) Ranking Member: Homeland Security
46 Mike Enzi (R-WY) Wyoming 50th in population (1990) Ranking Member: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
47 Chuck Schumer (D-NY) January 3, 1999 Former U.S. Representative (18 years) Chair: Rules
48 Jim Bunning (R-KY) Former U.S. Representative (12 years)
49 Mike Crapo (R-ID) Former U.S. Representative (6 years)
50 Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Former U.S. Representative (4 years) Chair: Agriculture
51 George Voinovich (R-OH) Former governor (8 years) Ohio 7th in population (1990)
52 Evan Bayh (D-IN) Indiana 15th in population (1990)
53 Bill Nelson (D-FL) January 3, 2001 Former U.S. Representative (12 years)
54 Tom Carper (D-DE) Former U.S. Representative (10 years)
55 Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Former U.S. Representative (4 years) Michigan 8th in population (1990)
56 John Ensign (R-NV) Nevada 39th in population (1990)
57 Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Former U.S. Representative (2 years)
58 Ben Nelson (D-NE)
59 Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) December 20, 2002 Ranking Member: Energy
60 Frank Lautenberg[8] (D-NJ) January 3, 2003 Previously a U.S. Senator
61 Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Former U.S. Representative (8 years) Georgia 10th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Agriculture
62 Lindsey Graham (R-SC) South Carolina 26th in population (2000)
63 Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Former Cabinet member
64 John Cornyn[9] (R-TX) Texas 2nd in population (2000)
65 Mark Pryor (D-AR) Arkansas 33rd in population (2000)
66 Richard Burr (R-NC) January 3, 2005 Former U.S. Representative (10 years) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
67 Jim DeMint (R-SC) Former U.S. Representative (6 years) South Carolina 26th in population (2000)
68 Tom Coburn (R-OK) Oklahoma 27th in population (2000)
69 John Thune (R-SD) South Dakota 46th in population (2000)
70 Johnny Isakson (R-GA) Former U.S. Representative (5 years, 10 months) Ranking Member: Ethics
71 David Vitter (R-LA) Former U.S. Representative (5 years, 7 months)
72 Bob Menendez (D-NJ) January 18, 2006
73 Ben Cardin (D-MD) January 3, 2007 Former U.S. Representative (20 years)
74 Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Former U.S. Representative (16 years)
75 Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Former U.S. Representative (14 years)
76 Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)
77 Jim Webb[10] (D-VA) Virginia 12th in population (2000)
78 Bob Corker (R-TN) Tennessee 16th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Aging
79 Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Missouri 17th in population (2000)
80 Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Minnesota 21st in population (2000)
81 Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
82 Jon Tester (D-MT) Montana 44th in population (2000)
83 John Barrasso (R-WY) June 22, 2007 Ranking Member: Indian Affairs
84 Roger Wicker (R-MS) December 31, 2007
85 Mark Udall[11] (D-CO) January 3, 2009 Former U.S. Representative (10 years) Colorado 24th in population (2000)
86 Tom Udall (D-NM) New Mexico 36th in population (2000)
87 Mike Johanns (R-NE) Former Cabinet member
88 Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Former governor (6 years)
89 Mark Warner (D-VA) Former governor (4 years)
90 Jim Risch (R-ID) Former governor (7 months)
91 Kay Hagan (D-NC) North Carolina 11th in population (2000)
92 Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Oregon 28th in population (2000)
93 Mark Begich (D-AK) Alaska 47th in population (2000)
94 Roland Burris (D-IL) January 12, 2009
95 Ted Kaufman (D-DE) January 15, 2009
96 Michael Bennet (D-CO) January 21, 2009
97 Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) January 26, 2009[12]
98 Al Franken (D-MN) July 7, 2009[13]
99 George LeMieux (R-FL) September 10, 2009
100 Paul G. Kirk (D-MA) September 24, 2009
Rank Name Seniority date Second factor Third factor Notes

See also


  1. ^ "A Chronological List of United States Senators 1789-Present". Official website of the United States Senate.  
  2. ^ 1971 U.S Census Report Contains 1970 Census results.
  3. ^ 1981 U.S Census Report Contains 1980 Census results.
  4. ^ 1991 U.S Census Report Contains 1990 Census results.
  5. ^ 2000 Census State Population Rankings
  6. ^ Tom Harkin is currently the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  7. ^ Joe Lieberman won re-election as a third party candidate in 2006 and caucuses with the Democratic Party. However, he has chosen to refer to himself as an "Independent Democrat." Despite the party change, Lieberman retains his seniority since there is no break in his Senate service.
  8. ^ Frank Lautenberg served a previous term as U.S. Senator from New Jersey from January 1983 to January 2001, but under the rules, does not retain seniority from that prior service. Lautenberg has sought restoration of his seniority based on his prior service, but has not received it. -
  9. ^ Cornyn's predecessor, Phil Gramm, resigned early, effective November 30, 2002, so that 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.
  10. ^ Senator Webb served as Secretary of the Navy; however, that has not been a Cabinet-level position since 1947 and therefore does not affect his Seniority.
  11. ^ Mark Udall is currently the Senate's most junior senior senator.
  12. ^ Gillibrand's appointment was January 23, but it was not effective until she resigned from the House on January 26.
  13. ^ Al Franken was elected to the senate term that began on Jan 3, 2009, but due to legal challenges, could not be 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 (see Rushing, J. Taylor (2009-07-08). "Franken ranks last in Senate seniority". The Hill. Retrieved 2009-09-25.   [Archived by WebCite at])


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