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. Per traditions, the longest serving senator of the majority party is named president pro tempore of the Senate, the second-highest office in the Senate and the third in the line of succession to the presidency of the United States.[1]

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.[2]

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. For most of American history this was March 4 of odd-numbered years, but effective from 1935 the 20th Amendment moved this to 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. A senator may be simultaneously elected to fill a term in a special election, and elected to the six-year term which begins on the upcoming January 3. Their seniority is that of someone chosen in a special election.

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:[2]

  1. Former senator
  2. Former Vice President of the United States
  3. Former member of the United States House of Representatives
  4. Former member of the Cabinet of the United States
  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, Jerry Moran, John Boozman, John Hoeven, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Richard Blumenthal and Mike Lee took office on January 3, 2011. The first two senators mentioned had served in the House of Representatives: Moran had served for 14 years and Boozman for nine. 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 36th to 43rd in seniority when the 118th United States Congress convened.

If two senators are tied on all criteria, the one whose surname comes first alphabetically is considered the senior senator. This happened with Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of Georgia, who were sworn in on January 20, 2021. Because they were both newly elected senators from the same state, with no prior government service, no other tie-breaking criteria could be used. The Senate's official records, as well as the Democratic Caucus, thus consider Ossoff, whose name comes first alphabetically, as the senior senator, despite him being 17 years younger than Warnock.[2][3][4]

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.[5][6][7]

  Republican (49)       Democratic (48)       Independent (3)


Current
rank
Historical
rank[a][2]
Senator Party State Seniority date Other factors Committee and leadership positions


1 1743 Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa January 3, 1981 President pro tempore emeritus
Ranking Member: Judiciary
2 1766 Mitch McConnell Kentucky January 3, 1985 Senate Minority Leader
3 1801 Dianne Feinstein Democratic California November 4, 1992
4 1810 Patty Murray Washington January 3, 1993 President pro tempore
Chair: Appropriations
5 1827 Ron Wyden Oregon February 6, 1996 Chair: Finance
6 1831 Dick Durbin Illinois January 3, 1997 Former House member (14 years) Senate Majority Whip
Chair: Judiciary
7 1835 Jack Reed Rhode Island Former House member (6 years) Chair: Armed Services
8 1842 Susan Collins Republican Maine Ranking Member: Appropriations
9 1844 Chuck Schumer Democratic New York January 3, 1999 Former House member (18 years) Senate Majority Leader
10 1846 Mike Crapo Republican Idaho Former House member (6 years) Republican Chief Depty Whip
Ranking Member: Finance
11 1855 Tom Carper Democratic Delaware January 3, 2001 Former House member (10 years) Chair: Environment
12 1856 Debbie Stabenow Michigan Former House member (4 years) Chair: Democratic Policy Committee
Chair: Agriculture
13 1859 Maria Cantwell[b] Washington Former House member (2 years) Chair: Commerce
14 1867 John Cornyn Republican Texas December 2, 2002 Ranking Member: Narcotics Caucus
15 1868 Lisa Murkowski Alaska December 20, 2002[c] Ranking Member: Indian Affairs
16 1870 Lindsey Graham South Carolina January 3, 2003 Ranking Member: Budget
17 1879 John Thune South Dakota January 3, 2005 Senate Minority Whip
18 1885 Bob Menendez Democratic New Jersey January 17, 2006[c] Chair: Foreign Relations
19 1886 Ben Cardin Maryland January 3, 2007 Former House member (20 years) Chair: Small Business
20 1887 Bernie Sanders Independent Vermont Former House member (16 years) Chair: Democratic Outreach Committee
Chair: HELP
21 1888 Sherrod Brown Democratic Ohio Former House member (14 years) Chair: Banking
22 1890 Bob Casey Jr. Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000) Chair: Aging
23 1893 Amy Klobuchar Minnesota Minnesota 21st in population (2000) Chair: Democratic Steering Committee
Chair: Rules
24 1894 Sheldon Whitehouse Rhode Island Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000) Chair: Budget
25 1895 Jon Tester Montana Montana 44th in population (2000) Chair: Veterans' Affairs
26 1896 John Barrasso Republican Wyoming June 22, 2007[c] Chair: Republican Conference
Ranking Member: Energy
27 1897 Roger Wicker Mississippi December 31, 2007[c] Ranking Member: Armed Services
28 1901 Jeanne Shaheen Democratic New Hampshire January 3, 2009 Former governor (6 years)
29 1902 Mark Warner Virginia Former governor (4 years) Vice Chair: Democratic Caucus
Chair: Intelligence
30 1903 Jim Risch Republican Idaho Former governor (7 months) Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
31 1905 Jeff Merkley Democratic Oregon Democratic Chief Depty Whip
32 1909 Michael Bennet Colorado January 21, 2009[c]
33 1910 Kirsten Gillibrand New York January 26, 2009[c]
34 1916 Joe Manchin West Virginia November 15, 2010 Former governor Vice Chair: Democratic Policy Committee
Chair: Energy
35 1917 Chris Coons Delaware Chair: Ethics
36 1920 Jerry Moran Republican Kansas January 3, 2011 Former House member (14 years) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
37 1922 John Boozman Arkansas Former House member (9 years) Ranking Member: Agriculture
38 1924 John Hoeven North Dakota Former governor
39 1925 Marco Rubio Florida Florida 4th in population (2000) Vice Chair: Intelligence
40 1926 Ron Johnson Wisconsin Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)
41 1927 Rand Paul Kentucky Kentucky 25th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Homeland Security
42 1928 Richard Blumenthal Democratic Connecticut Connecticut 29th in population (2000)
43 1929 Mike Lee Republican Utah Utah 34th in population (2000) Chair: Republican Steering Committee
44 1932 Brian Schatz Democratic Hawaii December 26, 2012[c] Deputy Secretary: Democratic Caucus
Chair: Indian Affairs
45 1933 Tim Scott Republican South Carolina January 2, 2013[c] Ranking Member: Banking
46 1934 Tammy Baldwin Democratic Wisconsin January 3, 2013 Former House member (14 years) Secretary: Democratic Caucus
47 1937 Chris Murphy Connecticut Former House member (6 years);
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
48 1938 Mazie Hirono Hawaii Former House member (6 years);
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
49 1939 Martin Heinrich New Mexico Former House member (4 years)
50 1940 Angus King Independent Maine Former governor (8 years)
51 1941 Tim Kaine Democratic Virginia Former governor (4 years)
52 1942 Ted Cruz Republican Texas Texas 2nd in population (2010) Ranking Member: Commerce
53 1943 Elizabeth Warren Democratic Massachusetts Massachusetts 14th in population (2010) Vice Chair: Democratic Caucus
54 1944 Deb Fischer Republican Nebraska Nebraska 38th in population (2010) Ranking Member: Rules
55 1948 Ed Markey Democratic Massachusetts July 16, 2013
56 1949 Cory Booker New Jersey October 31, 2013 Vice Chair: Democratic Policy Committee
57 1951 Shelley Moore Capito Republican West Virginia January 3, 2015 Former House member (14 years) Vice Chair: Republican Conference
Ranking Member: Environment
58 1952 Gary Peters Democratic Michigan Former House member (6 years);
Michigan 8th in population (2010)
Chair: DSCC
Chair: Homeland Security
59 1953 Bill Cassidy Republican Louisiana Former House member (6 years);
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
Ranking Member: HELP
60 1955 James Lankford Oklahoma Former House member (4 years) Ranking Member: Ethics
61 1956 Tom Cotton Arkansas Former House member (2 years);
Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
62 1957 Steve Daines Montana Former House member (2 years);
Montana 44th in population (2010)
Chair: NRSC
63 1958 Mike Rounds South Dakota Former governor
64 1960 Thom Tillis North Carolina North Carolina 10th in population (2010)
65 1961 Joni Ernst Iowa Iowa 30th in population (2010) Chair: Republican Policy Committee
66 1963 Dan Sullivan Alaska Alaska 47th in population (2010)
67 1964 Chris Van Hollen Democratic Maryland January 3, 2017 Former House member (14 years)
68 1965 Todd Young Republican Indiana Former House member (6 years)
69 1966 Tammy Duckworth Democratic Illinois Former House member (4 years)
70 1967 Maggie Hassan New Hampshire Former governor
71 1969 John Neely Kennedy Republican Louisiana Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
72 1970 Catherine Cortez Masto Democratic Nevada Nevada 35th in population (2010) Vice Chair: Democratic Outreach Committee
73 1972 Tina Smith Minnesota January 3, 2018[c] Vice Chair: DSCC
74 1974 Cindy Hyde-Smith Republican Mississippi April 2, 2018[c]
75 1975 Marsha Blackburn Tennessee January 3, 2019 Former House member (16 years)
76 1976 Kyrsten Sinema Independent[d] Arizona Former House member (6 years);
Arizona 16th in population (2010)
77 1977 Kevin Cramer Republican North Dakota Former House member (6 years);
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
78 1979 Jacky Rosen Democratic Nevada Former House member (2 years)
79 1980 Mitt Romney Republican Utah Former governor
80 1981 Mike Braun Indiana Indiana 15th in population (2010)
81 1982 Josh Hawley Missouri Missouri 18th in population (2010)
82 1983 Rick Scott Florida January 8, 2019
83 1985 Mark Kelly Democratic Arizona December 2, 2020
84 1986 Ben Ray Luján New Mexico January 3, 2021 Former House member (12 years)
85 1987 Cynthia Lummis Republican Wyoming Former House member (8 years)
86 1988 Roger Marshall Kansas Former House member (4 years)
87 1989 John Hickenlooper Democratic Colorado Former governor
88 1990 Bill Hagerty Republican Tennessee Tennessee 17th in population (2010)
89 1991 Tommy Tuberville Alabama Alabama 23rd in population (2010)
90 1992 Alex Padilla Democratic California January 18, 2021[c] Vice Chair: DSCC
91 1993 Jon Ossoff[e] Georgia January 20, 2021 'O' 15th letter of the alphabet[4]
92 1994 Raphael Warnock 'W' 23rd letter of the alphabet[4]
93 1995 Peter Welch Vermont January 3, 2023 Former House member (16 years)
94 1996 Markwayne Mullin Republican Oklahoma Former House member (10 years)
95 1997 Ted Budd North Carolina Former House member (6 years)
96 1998 John Fetterman Democratic Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 5th in population (2020)
97 1999 J. D. Vance Republican Ohio Ohio 7th in population (2020)
98 2000 Eric Schmitt Missouri Missouri 19th in population (2020)
99 2001 Katie Britt Alabama Alabama 24th in population (2020)
100 2002 Pete Ricketts Nebraska January 12, 2023[c]
Rank Historical
rank[a][2]
Senator Party State Seniority date Other factors Committee and leadership positions


See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b "Historical rank" refers to the Senator's seniority over the entire history of the Senate since 1789. This is an absolute number that does not change from one Congress to the next.
  2. ^ Maria Cantwell (#13) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 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.
  4. ^ Kyrsten Sinema's 2022 party change did not break her service or seniority.
  5. ^ Jon Ossoff (#91) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.

References

  1. ^ Kilgore, Ed (November 17, 2021). "Californians Move Toward Lock on Presidential Succession". Intelligencer. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e "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.
  3. ^ Bluestein, Greg. "'A new era': Ossoff, Warnock sworn into office, giving Democrats control of U.S. Senate". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Wooten, Nick (January 20, 2021). "Will Ossoff or Warnock be Georgia's senior senator? The answer is a simple one". Ledger-Enquirer. Archived from the original on January 23, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  5. ^ "1991 U.S Census Report" (PDF).
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Resident Population Data (Text Version) – 2010 Census, by state and census region".