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.
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.
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 of the United States
- Former member of the United States House of Representatives
- Former member of the Cabinet of the United States
- Former state governor
- 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, Roy Blunt, Jerry Moran, Rob Portman, John Boozman, Pat Toomey, John Hoeven, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Richard Blumenthal and Mike Lee took office on January 3, 2011. The first five senators mentioned had served in the House of Representatives: Blunt and Moran had served for 14 years; Portman for 12; Boozman for nine; Toomey for six. Blunt outranks Moran because Missouri was ranked above Kansas by population in the 2000 census. 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 40th to 50th in seniority when the 117th United States Congress convened.
Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of Georgia, were sworn in on January 20, 2021. Because they were both newly elected senators with no prior government service, they were tied on all criteria. The Senate's official records list Ossoff as the senior senator. The Democratic caucus considers Ossoff the senior senator because his name comes first alphabetically.
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||President pro tempore|
|2||1743||Chuck Grassley||Republican||Iowa||January 3, 1981||President pro tempore emeritus|
Ranking Member: Judiciary
|3||1766||Mitch McConnell||Republican||Kentucky||January 3, 1985||Senate Minority Leader|
|4||1775||Richard Shelby||Republican[b]||Alabama||January 3, 1987||Ranking Member: Appropriations|
|5||1801||Dianne Feinstein||Democratic||California||November 4, 1992||Chair: Narcotics Caucus|
|6||1810||Patty Murray||Democratic||Washington||January 3, 1993||Chair: HELP|
|7||1816||Jim Inhofe||Republican||Oklahoma||November 16, 1994||Ranking Member: Armed Services|
|8||1827||Ron Wyden||Democratic||Oregon||February 6, 1996||Chair: Finance|
|9||1831||Dick Durbin||Democratic||Illinois||January 3, 1997||Former House member (14 years)||Senate Majority Whip|
|10||1835||Jack Reed||Democratic||Rhode Island||Former House member (6 years)||Chair: Armed Services|
|12||1844||Chuck Schumer||Democratic||New York||January 3, 1999||Former House member (18 years)||Senate Majority Leader|
|13||1846||Mike Crapo||Republican||Idaho||Former House member (6 years)||Ranking Member: Finance|
|14||1855||Tom Carper||Democratic||Delaware||January 3, 2001||Former House member (10 years)||Chair: Environment|
|15||1856||Debbie Stabenow||Democratic||Michigan||Former House member (4 years)||Chair: Agriculture|
|16||1859||Maria Cantwell[c]||Democratic||Washington||Former House member (2 years)||Chair: Commerce|
|17||1867||John Cornyn||Republican||Texas||December 2, 2002||Ranking Member: Narcotics Caucus|
|18||1868||Lisa Murkowski||Republican||Alaska||December 20, 2002[d]||Ranking Member: Indian Affairs|
|19||1870||Lindsey Graham||Republican||South Carolina||January 3, 2003||Ranking Member: Budget|
|20||1876||Richard Burr||Republican||North Carolina||January 3, 2005||Former House member (10 years)||Ranking Member: HELP|
|21||1879||John Thune||Republican||South Dakota||Former House member (6 years)||Senate Minority Whip|
|22||1885||Bob Menendez||Democratic||New Jersey||January 17, 2006[d]||Chair: Foreign Relations|
|23||1886||Ben Cardin||Democratic||Maryland||January 3, 2007||Former House member (20 years)||Chair: Small Business|
|24||1887||Bernie Sanders||Independent||Vermont||Former House member (16 years)||Chair: Budget|
|25||1888||Sherrod Brown||Democratic||Ohio||Former House member (14 years)||Chair: Banking|
|26||1890||Bob Casey Jr.||Democratic||Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania 6th in population (2000)||Chair: Aging|
|27||1893||Amy Klobuchar||Democratic||Minnesota||Minnesota 21st in population (2000)||Chair: Rules|
|28||1894||Sheldon Whitehouse||Democratic||Rhode Island||Rhode Island 43rd in population (2000)|
|29||1895||Jon Tester||Democratic||Montana||Montana 44th in population (2000)||Chair: Veterans' Affairs|
|30||1896||John Barrasso||Republican||Wyoming||June 22, 2007[d]||Ranking Member: Energy|
|31||1897||Roger Wicker||Republican||Mississippi||December 31, 2007[d]||Ranking Member: Commerce|
|32||1901||Jeanne Shaheen||Democratic||New Hampshire||January 3, 2009||Former governor (6 years)|
|33||1902||Mark Warner||Democratic||Virginia||Former governor (4 years)||Chair: Intelligence|
|34||1903||Jim Risch||Republican||Idaho||Former governor (7 months)||Ranking Member: Foreign Relations|
|36||1909||Michael Bennet||Democratic||Colorado||January 21, 2009[d]|
|37||1910||Kirsten Gillibrand||Democratic||New York||January 26, 2009[d]|
|38||1916||Joe Manchin||Democratic||West Virginia||November 15, 2010||Former governor||Chair: Energy|
|39||1917||Chris Coons||Democratic||Delaware||Chair: Ethics|
|40||1919||Roy Blunt||Republican||Missouri||January 3, 2011||Former House member (14 years);
Missouri 17th in population (2000)
|Ranking Member: Rules|
|41||1920||Jerry Moran||Republican||Kansas||Former House member (14 years);
Kansas 33rd in population (2000)
|Ranking Member: Veterans' Affairs|
|42||1921||Rob Portman||Republican||Ohio||Former House member (12 years)||Ranking Member: Homeland Security|
|43||1922||John Boozman||Republican||Arkansas||Former House member (9 years)||Ranking Member: Agriculture|
|44||1923||Pat Toomey||Republican||Pennsylvania||Former House member (6 years)||Ranking Member: Banking|
|45||1924||John Hoeven||Republican||North Dakota||Former governor|
|46||1925||Marco Rubio||Republican||Florida||Florida 4th in population (2000)||Vice Chair: Intelligence|
|47||1926||Ron Johnson||Republican||Wisconsin||Wisconsin 20th in population (2000)|
|48||1927||Rand Paul||Republican||Kentucky||Kentucky 25th in population (2000)||Ranking Member: Small Business|
|49||1928||Richard Blumenthal||Democratic||Connecticut||Connecticut 29th in population (2000)|
|50||1929||Mike Lee||Republican||Utah||Utah 34th in population (2000)|
|51||1932||Brian Schatz||Democratic||Hawaii||December 26, 2012[d]||Chair: Indian Affairs|
|52||1933||Tim Scott||Republican||South Carolina||January 2, 2013[d]||Ranking Member: Aging|
|53||1934||Tammy Baldwin||Democratic||Wisconsin||January 3, 2013||Former House member (14 years)|
|54||1937||Chris Murphy||Democratic||Connecticut||Former House member (6 years);|
Connecticut 29th in population (2010)
|55||1938||Mazie Hirono||Democratic||Hawaii||Former House member (6 years);|
Hawaii 40th in population (2010)
|56||1939||Martin Heinrich||Democratic||New Mexico||Former House member (4 years)|
|57||1940||Angus King||Independent||Maine||Former governor (8 years)|
|58||1941||Tim Kaine||Democratic||Virginia||Former governor (4 years)|
|59||1942||Ted Cruz||Republican||Texas||Texas 2nd in population (2010)|
|60||1943||Elizabeth Warren||Democratic||Massachusetts||Massachusetts 14th in population (2010)|
|61||1944||Deb Fischer||Republican||Nebraska||Nebraska 38th in population (2010)|
|62||1948||Ed Markey||Democratic||Massachusetts||July 16, 2013|
|63||1949||Cory Booker||Democratic||New Jersey||October 31, 2013|
|64||1951||Shelley Moore Capito||Republican||West Virginia||January 3, 2015||Former House member (14 years)||Ranking Member: Environment|
|65||1952||Gary Peters||Democratic||Michigan||Former House member (6 years);
Michigan 8th in population (2010)
|Chair: Homeland Security|
|66||1953||Bill Cassidy||Republican||Louisiana||Former House member (6 years);
Louisiana 25th in population (2010)
|67||1955||James Lankford||Republican||Oklahoma||Former House member (4 years)||Ranking Member: Ethics|
|68||1956||Tom Cotton||Republican||Arkansas||Former House member (2 years);
Arkansas 32nd in population (2010)
|69||1957||Steve Daines||Republican||Montana||Former House member (2 years);|
Montana 44th in population (2010)
|70||1958||Mike Rounds||Republican||South Dakota||Former governor|
|71||1960||Thom Tillis||Republican||North Carolina||North Carolina 10th in population (2010)|
|72||1961||Joni Ernst||Republican||Iowa||Iowa 30th in population (2010)|
|73||1962||Ben Sasse||Republican||Nebraska||Nebraska 38th in population (2010)|
|74||1963||Dan Sullivan||Republican||Alaska||Alaska 47th in population (2010)|
|75||1964||Chris Van Hollen||Democratic||Maryland||January 3, 2017||Former House member (14 years)|
|76||1965||Todd Young||Republican||Indiana||Former House member (6 years)|
|77||1966||Tammy Duckworth||Democratic||Illinois||Former House member (4 years)|
|78||1967||Maggie Hassan||Democratic||New Hampshire||Former governor|
|79||1969||John Kennedy||Republican||Louisiana||Louisiana 25th in population (2010)|
|80||1970||Catherine Cortez Masto||Democratic||Nevada||Nevada 35th in population (2010)|
|81||1972||Tina Smith||Democratic||Minnesota||January 3, 2018[d]|
|82||1974||Cindy Hyde-Smith||Republican||Mississippi||April 2, 2018[d]|
|83||1975||Marsha Blackburn||Republican||Tennessee||January 3, 2019||Former House member (16 years)|
|84||1976||Kyrsten Sinema||Democratic||Arizona||Former House member (6 years);|
Arizona 16th in population (2010)
|85||1977||Kevin Cramer||Republican||North Dakota||Former House member (6 years);|
North Dakota 48th in population (2010)
|86||1979||Jacky Rosen||Democratic||Nevada||Former House member (2 years)|
|87||1980||Mitt Romney||Republican||Utah||Former governor|
|88||1981||Mike Braun||Republican||Indiana||Indiana 15th in population (2010)|
|89||1982||Josh Hawley||Republican||Missouri||Missouri 18th in population (2010)|
|90||1983||Rick Scott||Republican||Florida||January 8, 2019|
|91||1985||Mark Kelly||Democratic||Arizona||December 2, 2020|
|92||1986||Ben Ray Luján||Democratic||New Mexico||January 3, 2021||Former House member (12 years)|
|93||1987||Cynthia Lummis||Republican||Wyoming||Former House member (8 years)|
|94||1988||Roger Marshall||Republican||Kansas||Former House member (4 years)|
|95||1989||John Hickenlooper||Democratic||Colorado||Former governor|
|96||1990||Bill Hagerty||Republican||Tennessee||Tennessee 17th in population (2010)|
|97||1991||Tommy Tuberville||Republican||Alabama||Alabama 23rd in population (2010)|
|98||1992||Alex Padilla[e]||Democratic||California||January 20, 2021||California 1st in population (2010)|
|99||1993||Jon Ossoff[f]||Democratic||Georgia||Georgia 9th in population (2010)|
|Senator||Party||State||Seniority date||Other factors||Committee and leadership positions|
- List of current United States senators
- List of current United States Senate committees
- 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, i.e. their position in the chronological ordering of all senators. 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 (#16) 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.
- Alex Padilla was appointed to the Senate by California Governor Gavin Newsom on January 18, but despite being an appointed senator, his seniority date is based on January 20.
- Jon Ossoff (#99) is the Senate's most junior senior senator.
- "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.
- Bluestein, Greg. "'A new era': Ossoff, Warnock sworn into office, giving Democrats control of U.S. Senate". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
- Wooten, Nick (January 20, 2021). "Will Ossoff or Warnock be Georgia's senior senator? The answer is a simple one". Ledger-Enquirer. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
- "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".
- "Governor Newsom Formally Appoints Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate and Nominates Dr. Shirley Weber as Secretary of State".