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About Parties and Leadership | Party Whips

Both party conferences in the Senate elect whips. The term "whip" comes from a fox-hunting expression—"whipper-in"—referring to the member of the hunting team responsible for keeping the dogs from straying from the team during a chase. Traditionally serving as assistant leaders, whips are mainly responsible for counting heads and rounding up party members for votes and quorum calls, and they occasionally stand in for the majority or minority leaders in their absence.

Established early in the 20th century, the whip position has undergone changes within both party conferences. Democrat James Hamilton Lewis of Illinois became the first party whip when he was elected to the position in 1913. Two years later the Republicans elected James W. Wadsworth to serve as both party secretary and whip. Soon after, however, the conference elected Charles Curtis as whip while Wadsworth remained as secretary. In 1921 the Republicans changed the title to “vice chairman and whip,” but in 1924 they separated the two positions, allowing the conference to elect the vice chairman (sometimes styled the “vice chairman and assistant floor leader”) and giving the party floor leader the authority to appoint the whip.

In 1935, with only 25 members, the Republican Conference chose not to employ a whip or a vice chair/assistant leader. When the Republicans brought back the whip position in 1944, they did away with the separate position of assistant floor leader. In 1970 Republicans began referring to their whips as assistant leaders, but in 2003 they again reverted to the whip title. Democrats, meanwhile, used the title whip until 2003, when they began calling the position assistant leader. They reverted back to the title of whip in 2013. In 2017 Democrats created a new position of assistant leader, which is separate from and ranks directly below the position of whip.

Republican Party Whips
WadsworthJames W. Wadsworth, Jr. (R-NY) 1915_11915
CurtisCharles Curtis (R-KS) * 1915-1924
JonesWesley L. Jones (R-WA) 1924-1929
FessSimeon D. Fess (R-OH) 1929-1933
HébertFelix Hébert (R-RI) 1933-19351
WherryKenneth S. Wherry (R-NE) * 1944-1949
SaltonstallLeverett Saltonstall (R-MA) 1949-1957
DirksenEverett M. Dirksen (R-IL) * 1957-1959
KuchelThomas H. Kuchel (R-CA) 1959-1969
ScottHugh D. Scott, Jr. (R-PA) * 1969
GriffinRobert P. Griffin (R-MI) 1969-1977
StevensTed Stevens (R-AK) 1977-1985
SimpsonAlan K. Simpson (R-WY) 1985-1995
LottTrent Lott (R-MS) * 1995-1996
NicklesDonald L. Nickles (R-OK) 1996-2003
McConnellMitch McConnell (R-KY) * 2003-2007
LottTrent Lott (R-MS) 2007
KylJon L. Kyl (R-AZ) 2008-2013
CornynJohn Cornyn (R-TX) 2013-2019
ThuneJohn Thune (R-SD) 2019-present

*Advanced to Republican party floor leader.

1 No Republican whips were appointed from 1935 to 1944 since only 17 Republicans were in the Senate following the landslide election 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."

Democratic Party Whips
LewisJames H. Lewis (D-IL) 1913–1919
GerryPeter G. Gerry (D-RI) 1919–1929
SheppardMorris Sheppard (D-TX) 1929–1933
LewisJames H. Lewis (D-IL) 1933–1939
MintonSherman Minton (D-IN) 1939–1941
HillJoseph L. Hill (D-AL) 1941–1947
LucasScott W. Lucas (D-IL) * 1947–1949
MyersFrancis J. Myers (D-PA) 1949–1951
JohnsonLyndon B. Johnson (D-TX) * 1951–1953
ClementsEarle C. Clements (D-KY) 1953–1957
MansfieldMichael J. Mansfield (D-MT) * 1957–1961
HumphreyHubert H. Humphrey, Jr. (D-MN) 1961–1965
LongRussell B. Long (D-LA) 1965–1969
KennedyEdward M. Kennedy (Ted) (D-MA) 1969–1971
ByrdRobert C. Byrd (D-WV) * 1971–1977
CranstonAlan Cranston (D-CA) 1977–1991
FordWendell H. Ford (D-KY) 1991–1999
ReidHarry Reid (D-NV) * 1999–2005
DurbinRichard J. Durbin (D-IL) 2005–present

*Advanced to Democratic party leader.