Seniority in the United States Senate
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Seniority in the United States Senate

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.

Benefits for more senior senators

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:

  • Traditionally, the most senior member of the majority party is named president pro tempore of the 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, 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.

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] 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. The seniority date for an appointed senator is usually the date of the appointment, 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 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
  7. Alphabetical by last name (in the case where two senators came from the same state on the same day and have identical credentials)

When more than one senator had such office, its length of time is used to break the tie. For instance, Ben Cardin, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jon Tester took office on January 3, 2007, ranked in order as the first three senators mentioned had served in the House of Representatives; Cardin: 20 years, Sanders, 16 years, Brown, 14 years. The rest rank in order because as of the 2000 census, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Montana ranked thus by population. These ranked from 27th to 33rd in seniority when the 116th United States Congress convened.

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 (53)   Democratic (45)   Independent (2)

Senator Party State Seniority date Other factors Committee and leadership positions
1 1692 Patrick Leahy Democratic Vermont January 3, 1975 Ranking Member: Appropriations
President pro tempore emeritus
2 1743 Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa January 3, 1981 President pro tempore
Chair: Finance
3 1766 Mitch McConnell Republican Kentucky January 3, 1985 Majority Leader
4 1775 Richard Shelby Republican[b] Alabama January 3, 1987 Chair: Appropriations
5 1801 Dianne Feinstein Democratic California November 4, 1992 Ranking Member: Judiciary
Co-Chair: International Narcotics Control Caucus
6 1810 Patty Murray Democratic Washington January 3, 1993 Ranking Member: HELP
Assistant Minority Leader
7 1816 Jim Inhofe Republican Oklahoma November 16, 1994 Chair: Armed Services
8 1827 Ron Wyden Democratic Oregon February 6, 1996 Ranking Member: Finance
9 1830 Pat Roberts Republican Kansas January 3, 1997 Former House member (16 years) Chair: Agriculture
10 1831 Dick Durbin Democratic Illinois Former House member (14 years) Minority Whip
11 1835 Jack Reed Democratic Rhode Island Former House member (6 years) Ranking Member: Armed Services
12 1842 Susan Collins Republican Maine Maine 38th in population (1990) Chair: Aging
13 1843 Mike Enzi Republican Wyoming Wyoming 50th in population (1990) Chair: Budget
14 1844 Chuck Schumer Democratic New York January 3, 1999 Former House member (18 years) Minority Leader
15 1846 Mike Crapo Republican Idaho Former House member (6 years) Chair: Banking
16 1855 Tom Carper Democratic Delaware January 3, 2001 Former House member (10 years) Ranking Member: Environment
17 1856 Debbie Stabenow Democratic Michigan Former House member (4 years) Ranking Member: Agriculture
Democratic Policy Committee Chair
18 1859 Maria Cantwell[c] Democratic Washington Former House member (2 years) Ranking Member: Commerce
19 1867 John Cornyn Republican Texas December 2, 2002 Chair: International Narcotics Control Caucus
20 1868 Lisa Murkowski Republican Alaska December 20, 2002[d] Chair: Energy
21 1870 Lindsey Graham Republican South Carolina January 3, 2003 Former House member Chair: Judiciary
22 1871 Lamar Alexander Republican Tennessee Chair: HELP
23 1876 Richard Burr Republican North Carolina January 3, 2005 Former House member (10 years)
24 1879 John Thune Republican South Dakota Former House member (6 years) Majority Whip
25 1885 Bob Menendez Democratic New Jersey January 17, 2006[d]   Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
26 1886 Ben Cardin Democratic Maryland January 3, 2007 Former House member (20 years) Ranking Member: Small Business
27 1887 Bernie Sanders Independent Vermont Former House member (16 years) Ranking Member: Budget
Democratic Outreach Chair
28 1888 Sherrod Brown Democratic Ohio Former House member (14 years) Ranking Member: Banking
29 1890 Bob Casey Jr. Democratic Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Aging
30 1893 Amy Klobuchar Democratic Minnesota Minnesota 21st in population (2000) Ranking Member: Rules
Democratic Steering Committee Chair
31 1894 Sheldon Whitehouse Democratic Rhode Island Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
32 1895 Jon Tester Democratic Montana Montana 44th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
33 1896 John Barrasso Republican Wyoming June 22, 2007[d] Chair: Environment
Republican Conference Chair
34 1897 Roger Wicker Republican Mississippi December 31, 2007[d] Chair: Commerce
35 1899 Tom Udall Democratic New Mexico January 3, 2009 Former House member Vice Chair: Indian Affairs
36 1901 Jeanne Shaheen Democratic New Hampshire Former governor (6 years)
37 1902 Mark Warner Democratic Virginia Former governor (4 years) Vice Chair: Intelligence
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
38 1903 Jim Risch Republican Idaho Former governor (7 months) Chair: Foreign Relations
39 1905 Jeff Merkley Democratic Oregon
40 1909 Michael Bennet Democratic Colorado January 21, 2009[d]
41 1910 Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic New York January 26, 2009[d]
42 1916 Joe Manchin Democratic West Virginia November 15, 2010 Former governor Ranking Member: Energy
Democratic Policy Committee Vice Chair
43 1917 Chris Coons Democratic Delaware Vice Chair: Ethics
44 1919 Roy Blunt Republican Missouri January 3, 2011 Former House member (14 years);
Missouri 17th in population (2000)
Chair: Rules
Republican Policy Committee Chair
45 1920 Jerry Moran Republican Kansas Former House member (14 years);
Kansas 33rd in population (2000)
Chair: Veterans' Affairs
46 1921 Rob Portman Republican Ohio Former House member (12 years)
47 1922 John Boozman Republican Arkansas Former House member (10 years)
48 1923 Pat Toomey Republican Pennsylvania Former House member (6 years)
49 1924 John Hoeven Republican North Dakota Former governor Chair: Indian Affairs
50 1925 Marco Rubio Republican Florida Florida 4th in population (2000) Chair: Small Business
Chair: Intelligence (Acting)
51 1926 Ron Johnson Republican Wisconsin Wisconsin 20th in population (2000) Chair: Homeland Security
52 1927 Rand Paul Republican Kentucky Kentucky 25th in population (2000)
53 1928 Richard Blumenthal Democratic Connecticut Connecticut 29th in population (2000)
54 1929 Mike Lee Republican Utah Utah 34th in population (2000) Republican Steering Committee Chair
55 1932 Brian Schatz Democratic Hawaii December 26, 2012[d]
56 1933 Tim Scott Republican South Carolina January 2, 2013[d]
57 1934 Tammy Baldwin Democratic Wisconsin January 3, 2013 Former House member (14 years) Democratic Caucus Secretary
58 1937 Chris Murphy Democratic Connecticut Former House member (6 years);
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
59 1938 Mazie Hirono Democratic Hawaii Former House member (6 years);
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
60 1939 Martin Heinrich Democratic New Mexico Former House member (4 years)
61 1940 Angus King Independent Maine Former governor (8 years)
62 1941 Tim Kaine Democratic Virginia Former governor (4 years)
63 1942 Ted Cruz Republican Texas Texas 2nd in population (2010)
64 1943 Elizabeth Warren Democratic Massachusetts Massachusetts 14th in population (2010) Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
65 1944 Deb Fischer Republican Nebraska Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
66 1948 Ed Markey Democratic Massachusetts July 16, 2013
67 1949 Cory Booker Democratic New Jersey October 31, 2013
68 1951 Shelley Moore Capito Republican West Virginia January 3, 2015 Former House member (14 years)
69 1952 Gary Peters Democratic Michigan Former House member (6 years);
Michigan 8th in population (2010)
Ranking Member: Homeland Security
70 1953 Bill Cassidy Republican Louisiana Former House member (6 years);
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
71 1954 Cory Gardner Republican Colorado Former House member (4 years);
Colorado 22nd in population (2010)
72 1955 James Lankford Republican Oklahoma Former House member (4 years);
Oklahoma 28th in population (2010)
Chair: Ethics
73 1956 Tom Cotton Republican Arkansas Former House member (2 years);
Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
74 1957 Steve Daines Republican Montana Former House member (2 years);
Montana 44th in population (2010)
75 1958 Mike Rounds Republican South Dakota Former governor
76 1959 David Perdue Republican Georgia Georgia 9th in population (2010)
77 1960 Thom Tillis Republican North Carolina North Carolina 10th in population (2010)
78 1961 Joni Ernst Republican Iowa Iowa 30th in population (2010) Republican Conference Vice Chair
79 1962 Ben Sasse Republican Nebraska Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
80 1963 Dan Sullivan Republican Alaska Alaska 47th in population (2010)
81 1964 Chris Van Hollen Democratic Maryland January 3, 2017 Former House member (14 years)
82 1965 Todd Young Republican Indiana Former House member (6 years) NRSC Chair
83 1966 Tammy Duckworth Democratic Illinois Former House member (4 years)
84 1967 Maggie Hassan Democratic New Hampshire Former governor
85 1968 Kamala Harris Democratic California California 1st in population (2010)
86 1969 John Neely Kennedy Republican Louisiana Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
87 1970 Catherine Cortez Masto Democratic Nevada Nevada 35th in population (2010) DSCC Chair
88 1972 Tina Smith Democratic Minnesota January 3, 2018 Minnesota 21st in population (2010)
89 1973 Doug Jones Democratic Alabama Alabama 23rd in population (2010)
90 1974 Cindy Hyde-Smith Republican Mississippi April 2, 2018[d]
91 1975 Marsha Blackburn Republican Tennessee January 3, 2019 Former House member (16 years)
92 1976 Kyrsten Sinema[e] Democratic Arizona Former House member (6 years);
Arizona 16th in population (2010)
93 1977 Kevin Cramer Republican North Dakota Former House member (6 years);
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
94 1978 Martha McSally Republican Arizona Former House member (4 years)
95 1979 Jacky Rosen Democratic Nevada Former House member (2 years)
96 1980 Mitt Romney Republican Utah Former governor
97 1981 Mike Braun Republican Indiana Indiana 15th in population (2010)
98 1982 Josh Hawley Republican Missouri Missouri 18th in population (2010)
99 1983 Rick Scott Republican Florida January 8, 2019
100 1984 Kelly Loeffler Republican Georgia January 6, 2020
Rank Historical
Senator Party State Seniority date Other factors Committee and leadership positions

See also


  1. ^ "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. ^ Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
  3. ^ Maria Cantwell (#18) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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. ^ Kyrsten Sinema (#92) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.


  1. ^ "A chronological list of senators since the First Congress in 1789" (PDF). United States Senate. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Senators of the United States 1789-present, A chronological list of senators since the First Congress in 1789" (PDF). Senate Historical Office. April 17, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "1991 U.S Census Report" (PDF).
  4. ^ American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2000 Census State Population Rankings". Archived from the original on April 3, 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  5. ^ "Resident Population Data (Text Version) - 2010 Census, by state and census region".

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