Seniority in the United States Senate is valuable as it confers a number of benefits 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

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.

The president pro tempore of the Senate is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party.

There are several benefits, 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.

Determining the beginning of a term

A term does not necessarily coincide with the date the Senate convenes or when the new Senator is sworn in. 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 the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office. In the case of Senators taking vacant seats in special elections, the term begins on Election Day. However, in both of these cases, if the incoming Senator is a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, he/she must resign from the House before her/his term in the Senate begins.

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. These tiebreakers in order are: [3]

  1. Former Senator
  2. Former Vice President
  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 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, Ben Cardin, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Bob Corker, Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jon Tester took office on January 3, 2007, and the first three senators mentioned had previously served in the House of Representatives. Cardin, having served 20 years, is more senior than Sanders, who served 16, in turn is more senior than Brown who served 14 years. Casey is more senior than Corker because as of the 2000 census, Pennsylvania's population outranks that of Tennessee's, McCaskill is more senior than Klobuchar because Missouri's population outranked that of Minnesota, and the latter is more senior than Whitehouse because the latter's home state outranked Rhode Island's population, meanwhile Tester's home state of Montana had the least population amongst the freshmen class of 2006, thus he was ranked 100 in seniority when the 110th 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 they first took their seat. [2] [3] [4] [2]

Republican R (52) Democratic D (46) Independent I (2)

Current
rank
Historical
rank: [3]
Senator
Party-State
Seniority date First tie-breaker Second tie-breaker Committee and leadership positions
1 1692 Leahy, Patrick Patrick Leahy
D - Vermont
January 3, 1975 Ranking Member: Appropriations
President pro tempore emeritus
2 1708 Hatch, Orrin Orrin Hatch
R - Utah
January 3, 1977 President pro tempore
Chair: Finance
3 1719 Cochran, Thad Thad Cochran
R - Mississippi
December 27, 1978 Chair: Appropriations
4 1745 Grassley, Chuck Chuck Grassley
R - Iowa
January 3, 1981 Chair: Judiciary
5 1766 McConnell, Mitch Mitch McConnell
R - Kentucky
January 3, 1985 Majority Leader
6 1775 Shelby, Richard Richard Shelby
R - Alabama
January 3, 1987 Former Representative (8 years) Chair: Rules
7 1777 McCain, John John McCain
R - Arizona
Former Representative (4 years) Chair: Armed Services
8 1801 Feinstein, Dianne Dianne Feinstein
D - California
November 4, 1992 Ranking Member: Judiciary
9 1810 Murray, Patty Patty Murray
D - Washington
January 3, 1993 Ranking Member: HELP
Assistant Minority Leader
10 1816 Inhofe, Jim Jim Inhofe
R - Oklahoma
November 16, 1994
11 1827 Wyden, Ron Ron Wyden
D - Oregon
February 6, 1996 Ranking Member: Finance
12 1830 Roberts, Pat Pat Roberts
R - Kansas
January 3, 1997 Former Representative (16 years) Chair: Agriculture
13 1831 Durbin, Dick Dick Durbin
D - Illinois
Former Representative (14 years) Minority Whip
14 1835 Reed, Jack Jack Reed
D - Rhode Island
Former Representative (6 years) Ranking Member: Armed Services
15 1842 Collins, Susan Susan Collins
R - Maine
Maine 38th in population (1990) Chair: Aging
16 1843 Enzi, Mike Mike Enzi
R - Wyoming
Wyoming 50th in population (1990) Chair: Budget
17 1844 Schumer, Chuck Chuck Schumer
D - New York
January 3, 1999 Former Representative (18 years) Minority Leader
18 1846 Crapo, Mike Mike Crapo
R - Idaho
Former Representative (6 years) Chair: Banking
19 1854 Nelson, Bill Bill Nelson
D - Florida
January 3, 2001 Former Representative (12 years) Ranking Member: Commerce
20 1855 Carper, Tom Tom Carper
D - Delaware
Former Representative (10 years) Ranking Member: Environment
21 1856 Stabenow, Debbie Debbie Stabenow
D - Michigan
Former Representative (4 years) Ranking Member: Agriculture
Democratic Policy Committee Chair
22 1859 Cantwell, Maria Maria Cantwell
D - Washington
Former Representative (2 years) Ranking Member: Energy
23 1873 Murkowski, Lisa Lisa Murkowski
R - Alaska
December 20, 2002 Chair: Energy
24 1867 Graham, Lindsey Lindsey Graham
R - South Carolina
January 3, 2003 Former Representative
25 1869 Alexander, Lamar Lamar Alexander
R - Tennessee
Former Cabinet member Chair: HELP
26 1871 Cornyn, John John Cornyn
R - Texas
Majority Whip
27 1876 Burr, Richard Richard Burr
R - North Carolina
January 3, 2005 Former Representative (10 years) Chair: Intelligence
28 1879 Thune, John John Thune
R - South Dakota
Former Representative (6 years) Chair: Commerce
Republican Conference Chair
29 1880 Isakson, Johnny Johnny Isakson
R - Georgia
Former Representative (5 yrs., 10 mos.) Chair: Veterans' Affairs
Chair: Ethics
30 1885 Menendez, Bob Bob Menendez
D - New Jersey
January 17, 2006
31 1886 Cardin, Ben Ben Cardin
D - Maryland
January 3, 2007 Former Representative (20 years) Ranking Member: Foreign Relations
32 1887 Sanders, Bernie Bernie Sanders
I - Vermont
Former Representative (16 years) Ranking Member: Budget
33 1888 Brown, Sherrod Sherrod Brown
D - Ohio
Former Representative (14 years) Ranking Member: Banking
34 1890 Casey Jr., Bob Bob Casey Jr.
D - Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania 6th in population ( 2000) Ranking Member: Aging
35 1891 Corker, Bob Bob Corker
R - Tennessee
Tennessee 16th in population (2000) Chair: Foreign Relations
36 1892 McCaskill, Claire Claire McCaskill
D - Missouri
Missouri 17th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Homeland Security
37 1893 Klobuchar, Amy Amy Klobuchar
D - Minnesota
Minnesota 21st in population (2000) Ranking Member: Rules
38 1894 Whitehouse, Sheldon Sheldon Whitehouse
D - Rhode Island
Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)
39 1895 Tester, Jon Jon Tester
D - Montana
Montana 44th in population (2000) Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs
40 1896 Barrasso, John John Barrasso
R - Wyoming
June 22, 2007 Chair: Environment
Republican Policy Committee Chair
41 1897 Wicker, Roger Roger Wicker
R - Mississippi
December 31, 2007
42 1899 Udall, Tom Tom Udall
D - New Mexico
January 3, 2009 Former Representative Vice Chair: Indian Affairs
43 1901 Shaheen, Jeanne Jeanne Shaheen
D - New Hampshire
Former Governor (6 years) Ranking Member: Small Business
44 1902 Warner, Mark Mark Warner
D - Virginia
Former Governor (4 years) Vice Chair: Intelligence
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
45 1903 Risch, Jim Jim Risch
R - Idaho
Former Governor (7 months) Chair: Small Business
46 1905 Merkley, Jeff Jeff Merkley
D - Oregon
47 1909 Bennet, Michael Michael Bennet
D - Colorado
January 21, 2009
48 1910 Gillibrand, Kirsten Kirsten Gillibrand
D - New York
January 26, 2009
49 1911 Franken, Al Al Franken
D - Minnesota
July 7, 2009
50 1916 Manchin, Joe Joe Manchin
D - West Virginia
November 15, 2010 Former Governor
51 1917 Coons, Chris Chris Coons
D - Delaware
Vice Chair: Ethics
52 1919 Blunt, Roy Roy Blunt
R - Missouri
January 3, 2011 Former Representative (14 years) Missouri 17th in population (2000) Republican Conference Vice Chair
53 1920 Moran, Jerry Jerry Moran
R - Kansas
Kansas 33rd in population (2000)
54 1921 Portman, Rob Rob Portman
R - Ohio
Former Representative (12 years)
55 1922 Boozman, John John Boozman
R - Arkansas
Former Representative (10 years)
56 1923 Toomey, Pat Pat Toomey
R - Pennsylvania
Former Representative (6 years)
57 1924 Hoeven, John John Hoeven
R - North Dakota
Former Governor Chair: Indian Affairs
58 1925 Rubio, Marco Marco Rubio
R - Florida
Florida 4th in population (2000)
59 1926 Johnson, Ron Ron Johnson
R - Wisconsin
Wisconsin 20th in population (2000) Chair: Homeland Security
60 1927 Paul, Rand Rand Paul
R - Kentucky
Kentucky 25th in population (2000)
61 1928 Blumenthal, Richard Richard Blumenthal
D - Connecticut
Connecticut 29th in population (2000)
62 1929 Lee, Mike Mike Lee
R - Utah
Utah 34th in population (2000)
63 1931 Heller, Dean Dean Heller
R - Nevada
May 9, 2011
64 1932 Schatz, Brian Brian Schatz
D - Hawaii
December 26, 2012
65 1933 Scott, Tim Tim Scott
R - South Carolina
January 2, 2013
66 1934 Baldwin, Tammy Tammy Baldwin
D - Wisconsin
January 3, 2013 Former Representative (14 years) Democratic Caucus Secretary
67 1935 Flake, Jeff Jeff Flake
R - Arizona
Former Representative (12 years)
68 1936 Donnelly, Joe Joe Donnelly
D - Indiana
Former Representative (6 years) Indiana 15th in population ( 2010)
69 1937 Murphy, Chris Chris Murphy
D - Connecticut
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
70 1938 Hirono, Mazie Mazie Hirono
D - Hawaii
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
71 1939 Heinrich, Martin Martin Heinrich
D - New Mexico
Former Representative (4 years)
72 1940 King, Angus Angus King
I - Maine
Former Governor (8 years)
73 1941 Kaine, Tim Tim Kaine
D - Virginia
Former Governor (4 years)
74 1942 Cruz, Ted Ted Cruz
R - Texas
Texas 2nd in population (2010)
75 1943 Warren, Elizabeth Elizabeth Warren
D - Massachusetts
Massachusetts 14th in population (2010) Democratic Caucus Vice Chair
76 1944 Fischer, Deb Deb Fischer
R - Nebraska
Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
77 1945 Heitkamp, Heidi Heidi Heitkamp
D - North Dakota
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
78 1948 Markey, Ed Ed Markey
D - Massachusetts
July 16, 2013
79 1949 Booker, Cory Cory Booker
D - New Jersey
October 31, 2013
80 1951 Capito, Shelley Moore Shelley Moore Capito
R - West Virginia
January 3, 2015 Former Representative (14 years)
81 1952 Peters, Gary Gary Peters
D - Michigan
Former Representative (6 years) Michigan 8th in population (2010)
82 1953 Cassidy, Bill Bill Cassidy
R - Louisiana
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
83 1954 Gardner, Cory Cory Gardner
R - Colorado
Former Representative (4 years) Colorado 22nd in population (2010) NRSC Chair
84 1955 Lankford, James James Lankford
R - Oklahoma
Oklahoma 28th in population (2010)
85 1956 Cotton, Tom Tom Cotton
R - Arkansas
Former Representative (2 years) Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
86 1957 Daines, Steve Steve Daines
R - Montana
Montana 44th in population (2010)
87 1958 Rounds, Mike Mike Rounds
R - South Dakota
Former Governor
88 1959 Perdue, David David Perdue
R - Georgia
Georgia 9th in population (2010)
89 1960 Tillis, Thom Thom Tillis
R - North Carolina
North Carolina 10th in population (2010)
90 1961 Ernst, Joni Joni Ernst
R - Iowa
Iowa 30th in population (2010)
91 1962 Sasse, Ben Ben Sasse
R - Nebraska
Nebraska 38th in population (2010)
92 1963 Sullivan, Dan Dan Sullivan
R - Alaska
Alaska 47th in population (2010)
93 1964 Van Hollen, Chris Chris Van Hollen
D - Maryland
January 3, 2017 Former Representative (14 years) DSCC Chair
94 1965 Young, Todd Todd Young
R - Indiana
Former Representative (6 years)
95 1966 Duckworth, Tammy Tammy Duckworth
D - Illinois
Former Representative (4 years)
96 1967 Hassan, Maggie Maggie Hassan
D - New Hampshire
Former Governor
97 1968 Harris, Kamala Kamala Harris
D - California
California 1st in population (2010)
98 1969 Kennedy, John Neely John Neely Kennedy
R - Louisiana
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
99 1970 Cortez Masto, Catherine Catherine Cortez Masto
D - Nevada
Nevada 35th in population (2010)
100 1971 Strange, Luther Luther Strange
R - Alabama
February 9, 2017


Rank Historical
rank
Senator
Party-State
Seniority date First tie-breaker Second tie-breaker Committee and leadership positions

See also

Notes

  1. The seniority date for an appointed senator is the date of the appointment, not necessarily the date of taking the oath of office. See , above.
  2. Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
  3. Maria Cantwell (#22) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
  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. Although Sanders was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, and has voted with the Democratic Party for organizational purposes throughout his time in Congress, he has never been a Democratic Senator.
  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.
  7. Bill Cassidy (#82) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.