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 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:
- 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. 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:
- Former senator
- Former vice president
- Former House member
- Former Cabinet secretary
- Former state governor
- Population of state based on the most recent census when the senator took office
- 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 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, 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 years, who in turn is more senior than Brown, who served 14 years. Casey, Klobuchar, Whitehouse, and Tester rank in that order because as of the 2000 census, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Montana had populations that ranked in that order, so Tester is ranked 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.
|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|
|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|
|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)
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)
|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|
|Senator||Party||State||Seniority date||Other factors||Committee and leadership positions|
- Current members of the United States Senate
- Seniority in the United States House of Representatives
- List of members of the United States Congress by longevity of service
- List of longest-living United States senators
- "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.
- Richard Shelby's 1994 party change did not break his service or seniority.
- Maria Cantwell (#18) is the Senate's most senior junior senator.
- 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.
- Kyrsten Sinema (#92) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.
- "A chronological list of senators since the First Congress in 1789" (PDF). United States Senate. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- "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 August 8, 2015.
- "1991 U.S Census Report" (PDF).
- 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.
- "Resident Population Data (Text Version) – 2010 Census, by state and census region".