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Party leaders of the United States Senate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Party leaders of the U.S. Senate
Majority Leader
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Majority Whip
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Minority Whip
John Thune (R-SD)

The positions of majority leader and minority leader are held by two United States senators and members of the party leadership of the United States Senate. They serve as the chief spokespersons for their respective political parties holding the majority and the minority in the United States Senate. They are each elected as majority leader and minority leader by the senators of their party caucuses: the Senate Democratic Caucus and the Senate Republican Conference.

By Senate precedent, the presiding officer gives the majority leader priority in obtaining recognition to speak on the floor of the Senate. The majority leader serves as the chief representative of their party in the Senate, and is considered the most powerful member of the Senate. They also serve as the chief representative of their party in the entire Congress if the House of Representatives, and thus the office of the speaker of the House, is controlled by the opposition party. The Senate's executive and legislative business is also managed and scheduled by the majority leader.

The assistant majority leader and assistant minority leader of the United States Senate, commonly called whips, are the second-ranking members of each party's leadership. The main function of the majority and minority whips is to gather votes of their respective parties on major issues. As the second-ranking members of Senate leadership, if there is no floor leader present, the whip may become acting floor leader.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Congressional Leadership: Crash Course Government and Politics #8
  • The United States Senate
  • U.S. Senate (C-SPAN)
  • The House of Representatives in comparison to the Senate | US government and civics | Khan Academy
  • Congressional Elections: Crash Course Government and Politics #6


Hi, I'm Craig and this is Crash Course Government and Politics, and today we're going to examine the leadership structure of Congress! I know, pretty exciting stuff! Now calm down, let me explain. Are you ready to talk about Congressional leadership? You better be. So, the Congressional leadership are the Congresspersons with titles like Majority Leader and Minority Whip, and they have a lot to do with political parties, so we're going to talk about what the political parties do in Congress as well. Even if you don't follow politics, you probably have heard of the name and titles, if not the functions, of the various leaders. I'm going to need some help on this one, so... Let's go the Clone Zone! In the Clone Zone today I've got House Clone and Senate Clone to help me explain Congressional leadership. House Clone in the house! Take it away. The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House, and he or she is the third most powerful person in the country. The speaker is always elected by whichever party is in the majority. These elections take place every two years, because the whole House is elected every two years. That's a lot of elections! At the time of the shooting of the episode the Speaker of the House is John Boehner from Ohio, known for his tan, tears, and tacos. Yeaah, he's oddly really good at making tacos. I had the barbecue pork at his house one time.... Yeah, I had the beef taco! He called it la lengua. Interesting choice. Yeah. The speaker has two assistants to help run the house. The Majority Whip has the primary task of counting votes on important pieces of legislation, and making the party members vote along with their party. Whipping them into line, I suppose. (whipping noise) The third in line is the House Majority Leader, who helps the majority and probably does other stuff, but mainly he's chosen by the speaker because he's popular with particular factions within the party. The Minority Party, that's the one with fewer members elected in a term, duh (scoffs), also has a Minority Leader, and a Minority Whip, but no speaker. The Minority Leader is the de facto spokesperson for the minority party in the House, which is why you often see him or her on TV, or on your phone, or, your iPad, or your pager. I don't think you can see it on your pager. Hey, that was some pretty good stuff you said there House Clone. What's the deal with the Senate, Senate Clone? Things are simpler over in the Senate because we have only 100 august members and not the rabble of 435 to try to "manage." The leader of the Senate is the Majority Leader and he (so far it's always been a he) is elected by the members of his party, which by definition is the majority party, the one with 51 or more members. There's also a Minority Leader, which, like the Minority Leader in the House, is the party's spokesperson. The Vice President presides over the Senate sessions when he doesn't have anything better to do, even though it's one of his few official constitutional duties. When the veep is off at a funeral, or undermining the president with one of his gaffes, the President pro tempore presides. The President pro tem is a largely ceremonial role that is given to the most senior member of the majority party. Senior here means longest serving, not necessarily oldest, although it can be the same thing. No one would want to be a Congressional leader if there was no power involved, so it's important to know what powers these folks have, and how they exercise them. Also, I'm not supposed to do this, but let's go to the Thought Bubble. I love saying that! The primary way that leaders in both the House and Senate exercise power is through committee assignments. By assigning certain members to certain committees, the leadership can ensure that their views will be represented on those committees. Also, leaders can reward members with good committee assignments, usually ones that allow members to connect with their constituents, or stay in the public eye, or punish wayward members with bad committee assignments. Like the committee for cleaning the toilets or something. The Speaker of the House is especially powerful in his role assigning Congressmen to committees. Congressional leaders shape the agenda of Congress, having a huge say in which issues get discussed and how that discussion takes place. The Speaker is very influential here, although how debate happens in the House is actually decided by the House Rules Committee, which makes this a rather powerful committee to be on. The Senate doesn't have a rules committee, so there's no rules! Aw, yeah! There's rules. The body as a whole decides how long debate will go on, and whether amendments will be allowed, but the Majority Leader, if he can control his party, still has a lot of say in what issues will get discussed. Agenda setting is often a negative power, which means that it is exercised by keeping items off the agenda rather than putting them on. It's much easier to keep something from being debated at all than to manage the debate once it's started, and it's also rather difficult for the media to discuss an issue that's never brought up, no matter how much the public might ask, "But why don't you talk about this thing that matters a lot to me?" Thanks, Thought Bubble. Speaking of the media, Congressional leaders can also wield power because they have greater access to the press and especially TV. That's the thing people used to watch. Instead of YouTube. This is largely a matter of efficiency. Media outlets have only so many reporters, and they aren't going to waste resources on the first-term Congressman from some district in upstate New York. No one even goes to upstate New York. Is there anyone in upstate New York? Has anyone ever gone to upstate New York? When the Speaker calls a press conference reporters show up, and the Majority Leader can usually get on the Sunday talk shows if he wants. Media access is a pretty handy way to set an agenda for the public. Finally, Congressional leaders exercise a lot of power through their ability to raise money and to funnel it into their colleague's campaign. I want colleagues like that. Each House of Congress has a special campaign committee and whoever chairs it has the ability to shift campaign funds to the race that needs it most, or to the Congressperson he or she most wants to influence. The official leadership has little trouble raising money since donors want to give to proven winners who have a lot of power, and get the most bang for their buck. Since the leaders usually win their races easily, this is more true in the House than the Senate. They frequently have extra campaign money to give. Often the donations are given to political action committees, or PACs, which we'll talk about in another episode. We're going to spend a lot of time talking about political parties, and probably having parties of our own in later episodes, especially their role in elections, but they are really important once Congress is in office too. One way that parties matter is incredibly obvious if you stop to think about it. It's contained in the phrase "majority rules." This is especially true in the House, where the majority party chooses the Speaker, but it's also the case in the Senate. This is why ultimately political parties organize and raise so much money to win elections: if one of the parties controls both houses and the presidency, as the Democrats did in 2008 through 2009, that party is much more likely to actually get things done. The party that's the majority in each house is also the majority on all of that house's committees, or at least the important ones, and, as we saw in the last episode, committees are where most of the legislative work in Congress gets done. Gets did. As you probably figured out, the majority party chooses the committee chairs, too, so it's really got a lock on that sweet legislative agenda. Parties also can make Congress more efficient by providing a framework for cooperation. The party provides a common set of values, so a Republican from Florida and one from Wyoming will have something in common, even if their constituents don't. These common values can be the basis of legislation sometimes. But sometimes that happens. Political parties also provide discipline in the process. When a party is more unified it's easier for the leader to set an agenda and get the membership to stick to it. Right? Unified. Lack of party unity can make it difficult for the leadership. In 2011 a large group of very conservative newbie Congressmen associated with the Tea Party Movement made it difficult for Speaker Boehner to put forward an agenda. The Tea Party caucus felt Boehner compromised too much with the Democrats, even though his agenda was, by some standards, pretty conservative. As a result, Congress wasn't able to get much done, except make itself unpopular. So, if you combine all this with the stuff we learned about Congressional committees, you should have a pretty good understanding of how Congress actually works. Yay! Understanding! As this course progresses and you fall in love with politics, and myself, be on the lookout for how the leadership sets the agenda and pay attention to what issues might be floating around that aren't getting discussed in Congress. Understanding who the Congressional leaders are, and knowing their motivations, can give you a sense of why things do and don't get done by the government. And, if you're lucky, you live in a district represented by a member of leadership. In that case, the person you vote for will be in the news all the time, which is kind of satisfying, I guess. Yeah, I voted for that guy! Yeah! And now he's on the TV! Yeah! Thanks for watching. We'll see you next week. What do you think, can we be unified? Can we get things done? We can't. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made by all of these nice people. Thanks for watching. Someday, maybe the eagle and I will get along. Not today. Not today.

Current floor leaders

The Senate is currently composed of 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 3 independents; all the independents caucus with the Democrats.

The current leaders are Senators Chuck Schumer (D) of New York and Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky.[1] The current assistant leaders, or whips, are Senators Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois and John Thune (R) of South Dakota.


By at least 1850, parties in each chamber of Congress began naming chairs, and while conference and caucus chairs carried very little authority, the Senate party floor leader positions arose from the position of conference chair.[2] Senate Democrats began the practice of electing their floor leaders in 1920 while they were in the minority. John W. Kern was a Democratic senator from Indiana. While the title was not official, the Senate website identifies Kern as the first Senate party leader, serving in that capacity from 1913 through 1917 (and in turn, the first Senate Democratic leader), while serving concurrently as chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.[3] In 1925, the Republicans (who were in the majority at the time) also adopted this language when Charles Curtis became the first (official) majority leader,[4] although his immediate predecessor Henry Cabot Lodge is considered the first (unofficial) Senate majority leader.

The United States Constitution designates the Vice President of the United States as president of the Senate. The Constitution also calls for a president pro tempore, to serve as the presiding officer when the president of the Senate (the vice president) is absent. In practice, neither the vice president nor the president pro tempore—customarily the most senior (longest-serving) senator in the majority party—actually presides over the Senate on a daily basis; that task is given to junior senators of the majority party. Since the vice president may be of a different party from the majority and is not a Senate member subject to discipline, the rules of procedure of the Senate give the Vice President no power beyond the presiding role. For these reasons, it is the majority leader who, in practice, manages the Senate. This is in contrast to the House of Representatives, where the elected speaker of the House has a great deal of discretionary power and generally presides over votes on legislative bills.[citation needed]

List of party leaders

The Democratic Party first selected a leader in 1920. The Republican Party first formally designated a leader in 1925.[5]

Congress Dates Democratic whip Democratic leader Majority Republican leader Republican whip
63rd May 28, 1913
March 4, 1915
J. Hamilton Lewis None Democratic
← majority
None None
64th March 4, 1915
December 6, 1915
December 6, 1915
December 13, 1915
James Wadsworth
December 13, 1915
March 4, 1917
Charles Curtis
65th March 4, 1917
March 4, 1919
66th March 4, 1919
April 27, 1920
Peter Gerry Republican
majority →
Henry Cabot Lodge
April 27, 1920
March 4, 1921
Oscar Underwood
67th March 4, 1921
March 4, 1923
68th March 4, 1923
December 3, 1923
December 3, 1923
November 9, 1924
Joseph T. Robinson
November 9, 1924 –
March 4, 1925
Charles Curtis
Wesley Jones
69th March 4, 1925
March 4, 1927
Charles Curtis Wesley Jones
70th March 4, 1927
March 4, 1929
71st March 4, 1929
March 4, 1931
Morris Sheppard James E. Watson Simeon Fess
72nd March 4, 1931
March 4, 1933
73rd March 4, 1933
January 3, 1935
J. Hamilton Lewis Democratic
← majority
Charles L. McNary Felix Hebert
74th January 3, 1935
January 3, 1937
75th January 3, 1937
July 14, 1937
July 14, 1937 –
January 3, 1939
Alben W. Barkley
76th January 3, 1939 –
April 9, 1939
April 9, 1939 –
January 3, 1940
Sherman Minton
January 3, 1940 –
January 3, 1941
Warren Austin
77th January 3, 1941
January 3, 1943
J. Lister Hill Charles L. McNary
78th January 3, 1943
February 25, 1944
Kenneth Wherry
February 25, 1944 –
January 3, 1945
Wallace H. White
79th January 3, 1945
January 3, 1947
Wallace H. White
80th January 3, 1947
January 3, 1949
Scott W. Lucas Republican
majority →
81st January 3, 1949
January 3, 1951
Francis Myers Scott W. Lucas Democratic
← majority
Kenneth S. Wherry Leverett Saltonstall
82nd January 3, 1951
January 3, 1952
Lyndon B. Johnson Ernest McFarland
January 3, 1952
January 3, 1953
Styles Bridges
83rd January 3, 1953
July 31, 1953
Earle Clements Lyndon B. Johnson Republican
majority →
Robert A. Taft
August 3, 1953
January 3, 1955
William Knowland
84th January 3, 1955
January 3, 1957
← majority
85th January 3, 1957
January 3, 1959
Mike Mansfield Everett Dirksen
86th January 3, 1959
January 3, 1961
Everett Dirksen Thomas Kuchel
87th January 3, 1961
January 3, 1963
Hubert Humphrey Mike Mansfield
88th January 3, 1963
January 3, 1965
89th January 3, 1965
January 3, 1967
Russell B. Long
90th January 3, 1967
January 3, 1969
91st January 3, 1969
September 7, 1969
Ted Kennedy Hugh Scott
September 24, 1969
January 3, 1971
Hugh Scott Robert Griffin
92nd January 3, 1971
January 3, 1973
Robert Byrd
93rd January 3, 1973
January 3, 1975
94th January 3, 1975
January 3, 1977
95th January 3, 1977
January 3, 1979
Alan Cranston Robert Byrd Howard Baker Ted Stevens
96th January 3, 1979
November 1, 1979
November 1, 1979
March 5, 1980
Ted Stevens
March 5, 1980
January 3, 1981
Howard Baker
97th January 3, 1981
January 3, 1983
majority →
98th January 3, 1983
January 3, 1985
99th January 3, 1985
January 3, 1987
Bob Dole Alan Simpson
100th January 3, 1987
January 3, 1989
← majority
101st January 3, 1989
January 3, 1991
George Mitchell
102nd January 3, 1991
January 3, 1993
Wendell Ford
103rd January 3, 1993
January 3, 1995
104th January 3, 1995
June 12, 1996
Tom Daschle Republican
majority →
Trent Lott
June 12, 1996
January 3, 1997
Trent Lott Don Nickles
105th January 3, 1997
January 3, 1999
106th January 3, 1999
January 3, 2001
Harry Reid
107th January 3, 2001
January 20, 2001
← majority
January 20, 2001
June 6, 2001
majority →
June 6, 2001
November 23, 2002
← majority
November 23, 2002
January 3, 2003

majority →
108th January 3, 2003
January 3, 2005
Bill Frist Mitch McConnell
109th January 3, 2005
January 3, 2007
Dick Durbin Harry Reid
110th January 3, 2007
December 18, 2007
← majority
Mitch McConnell Trent Lott
December 19, 2007
January 3, 2009
Jon Kyl
111th January 3, 2009
January 3, 2011
112th January 3, 2011
January 3, 2013
113th January 3, 2013
January 3, 2015
John Cornyn
114th January 3, 2015
January 3, 2017
majority →
115th January 3, 2017
January 3, 2019
Chuck Schumer
116th January 3, 2019
January 3, 2021
John Thune
117th January 3, 2021
January 20, 2021
January 20, 2021
January 3, 2023
← majority
118th January 3, 2023
January 3, 2025
Congress Dates Democratic whip Democratic leader Majority Republican leader Republican whip

See also


  1. ^ No Republican whips were appointed from 1935 to 1944 since the Senate had only 17 Republicans following the landslide reelection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Accordingly, the minutes of the Republican Conference for the period state: "On motion of Senator Hastings, duly seconded and carried, it was agreed that no Assistant Leader or Whip be elected but that the chairman be authorized to appoint Senators from time to time to assist him in taking charge of the interests of the minority." A note attached to the conference minutes added: "The chairman of the conference, Senator McNary, apparently appointed Senator Austin of Vermont as assistant leader in 1943 and 1944, until the conference adopted Rules of Organization."[6]
  2. ^ Between November 23, 2002, and January 3, 2003, during the 107th Congress, Democrats remained in control, despite a Republican majority resulting from Jim Talent's special election victory in Missouri. There was no reorganization as the Senate was not in session.[7]


  1. ^ "Democrats Take Narrow Control of US Senate as Three New Members Sworn In | Voice of America - English". VOA. January 20, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  2. ^ Heitshusen, Valerie (September 4, 2019). Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2019 (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. p. i. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 24, 2021. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  3. ^ "Majority and Minority Leaders". United States Senate. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  4. ^ "Senate Leader". United States Senate. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  5. ^ "Majority and Minority Leaders". United States Senate. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  6. ^ Party Whips Archived March 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, via
  7. ^ Party Division in the Senate, 1789–present, via

External links

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