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Understanding the Senate Seniority System

Understanding the Senate Seniority System

The United States Senate has a system of seniority in place in regards to its members. There are several factors considered to determine seniority, but the system is designed around the basis of the length of time a particular member has served in the Senate. Furthermore, the seniority system also provides for certain benefits and/or perks for the chamber’s most senior members that may prove to be advantageous for their political careers.

The Senate’s seniority system is based on several factors to determine Senators’ ranking in the chamber. Firstly, the ranking starts even at the state level, meaning that the system applies between the two Senators that are elected by each state. A Senior Senator and a Junior Senator are terms that will always apply between two senators elected by the state.

The Senator that has been serving the Senate the longest and has done so in a continuous fashion will be granted the title of Senior Senator. However, sometimes, a situation will occur when both Senators of any given state are sworn in on the same day, in which the time of servitude can no longer be applied to determine seniority. The Senate has eleven factors that are used to determine seniority in the chamber, and they are:

Amount of time serving as United States Senator in a consecutive manner

Having been a United States Senator at a previous time. In other words, having served in non-consecutive terms

The length of time that a Senator has served in prior non-consecutive terms

Senator was a former member of the United States House of Representatives

Length of time the Senator served in the House of Representatives

The Senator was a former President

The Senator was a former Vice President

The Senator was a former cabinet member

The Senator was a former state governor

The population of the state that the Senator represents as recorded by the most recent census from when such Senator took office in the United States Senate

Alphabetical according to the last name, which is used in the case of two Senators being sworn in on the same day, representing the same state, and has the same credentials or political experience in their careers.

The factors are listed and numbered in terms of importance, with the length of consecutive Senate terms being the most important consideration, and alphabetical consideration as the least.

Even though seniority is implemented by the Senate and senior members do receive some special treatment, there is no real rights or power that is bestowed on Senators due to seniority. Generally speaking, a Senator would have more power being the Majority Party than being the most senior member in the chamber. However, Senators do enjoy some perks due to seniority status.

More senior members are most likely to have the choice of Senate Senate Committee assignments. Seniority is also implemented in committees to the extent that it may be possible for a Senator to obtain a higher seniority ranking than another, and yet still be considered his junior in terms of the Senate as a whole. Furthermore, chairmanship in Senate committees, even though are elected positions, will typically be awarded to the most senior member of the majority party on the committee.

The ranking of Senators due to seniority can actually be visually represented, for the more senior members of the Senate will sit closest to the front of the Senate Chamber. Senior Senators will also have the choice of the best offices as well, which can prove to be a nice perk in itself.