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Conference Chairpersons

Senators John P. Hale and John W. Stevenson
Chapter 1: Conference Chairpersons
Chapter 2: Republican Conference Chairpersons
Chapter 3: Democratic Conference Chairpersons

Conference Chairpersons 

Members of each major party meet in closed sessions known as party conferences (or party caucuses) to elect floor leaders, make committee assignments, and set legislative agendas. The Democratic floor leader serves as chair of the party conference, while the Republican Party separates the positions, electing a chairperson for the party conference, apart from the floor leader.


Republican Conference Chairpersons  
Senator Term
Hale, John P. (NH) ended 1862
Anthony, Henry B. (RI) 1862-1884
Sherman, John (OH) 1884-1885
Edmunds, George (VT) 1885-1891
Sherman, John (OH) 1891-1897
Allison, William B. (IA) 1897-1908
Hale, Eugene (ME) 1908-1911
Cullom, Shelby (IL) 1911-1913
Gallinger, Jacob H. (NH) 1913-1918
Lodge, Henry Cabot, Sr. (MA) 1918-1924
Curtis, Charles (KS) 1924-19291
Watson, James E. (IN) 1929-19332
McNary, Charles L. (OR) 1933-19443
Vandenberg, Arthur H. (MI) 1945-1946
Millikin, Eugene D. (CO) 1947-1956
Saltonstall, Leverett (MA) 1957-1966
Smith, Margaret Chase (ME) 1967-1972
Cotton, Norris (NH) 1973-1974
Curtis, Carl T. (NE) 1975-1978
Packwood, Robert (OR) 1979-1980
McClure, James A. (ID) 1981-1984
Chafee, John (RI) 1985-1990
Cochran, William Thad (MS) 1991-1996
Mack, Connie (FL) 1997-2001
Santorum, Richard J. (PA) 2001-2007
Kyl, Jon (AZ) 2007
Alexander, Lamar (TN) 2008-2012
Thune, John (SD) 2012-January 3, 2019
Barrasso, John (WY) 2019-present

1Republican senators elected Charles Curtis of Kansas as conference chairman on November 28, 1924, and as their first floor leader on March 5, 1925. Curtis, James Watson, and Charles McNary all served in dual roles as conference chairmen and party floor leaders. In 1945, the two positions were separated, with Arthur Vandenberg becoming conference chairman while Wallace H. White became Republican party floor leader. The positions have remained separated.

2Also served as Republican floor leader.

3Also served as Republican floor leader.

Democratic Conference Chairpersons 
Senator Term
Stevenson, John W. (KY) ended 1877
Wallace, William (PA) 1878-1881
Pendleton, George (OH) 1881-1885
Beck, James (KY) 1885-1890
Gorman, Arthur P. (MD) 1890-1898
Turpie, David (IN) 1898-1899
Jones, James K. (AR) 1899-1903
Gorman, Arthur P. (MD) 1903-1906
Blackburn, Joseph C. S. (KY) 1906-1907
Culberson, Charles A. (TX) 1907-1909
Money, Hernando D. (MS) 1909-1911
Martin, Thomas S. (VA) 1911-1913
Kern, John Worth (IN) 1913-1917
Martin, Thomas S. (VA) 1917-1919
Underwood, Oscar W. (AL) 1920-19231
Robinson, Joseph T. (AR) 1923-1937
Barkley, Alben W. (KY) 1937-1949
Lucas, Scott W. (IL) 1949-1951
McFarland, Ernest W. (AZ) 1951-1953
Johnson, Lyndon B. (TX) 1953-1961
Mansfield, Mike (MT) 1961-1977
Byrd, Robert C. (WV) 1977-1989
Mitchell, George J. (ME) 1989-1995
Daschle, Thomas A. (SD) 1995-January 3, 2005
Reid, Harry M. (NV) January 3, 2005-January 3, 2017
Schumer, Charles E. (NY) January 3, 2017-present

1Note: Beginning in 1920, the Democratic Conference chairperson also served as Democratic floor leader. In that year, Oscar Underwood became the first officially designated Democratic floor leader, and the tradition of combining the two positions continues to this day.

Sources for this information include: Gerald Gamm and Steven S. Smith, “Emergence of Senate Party Leadership,” in Bruce I, Oppenheimer, ed., U.S. Senate Exceptionalism (Ohio State University Press, 2002), pp. 212-238; “Rules of the Senate Republican Conference,” September 24, 1990; U.S. Congress, Senate, Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, by Floyd M. Riddick, S. Doc. 100-29, 100th Cong., 2d sess., 1988.