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Party Whips

Chapter 1: Party Whips
Chapter 2: Republican Party Whips
Chapter 3: Democratic Party Whips

Party Whips 

Both parties 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. Established early in the 20th century, the development of party whips coincided with the evolution of party leaders in the Senate.

Democrat James Hamilton Lewis of Illinois became the first party whip in 1913, and the Republicans established their own whip position two years later. 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. In 1970 Republicans began referring to their whips as assistant leaders, but in 2003, they began using the whip title again. Democrats used the title whip until 2003, when they began calling the position assistant leader. 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 
  Senator Term
Wadsworth, James W., Jr. (NY) 19151
Curtis, Charles (KS)* 1915-1924
Jones, Wesley L. (WA) 1924-1929
Fess, Simeon D. (OH) 1929-1933
Hébert, Felix (RI) 1933-19352
Wherry, Kenneth S. (NE)* 1944-1949
Saltonstall, Leverett (MA) 1949-1957
Dirksen, Everett M. (IL)* 1957-1959
Kuchel, Thomas H. (CA) 1959-1969
Scott, Hugh (PA)* 1969
Griffin, Robert P. (MI) 1969-1977
Stevens, Theodore (Ted) (AK) 1977-1985
Simpson, Alan K. (WY) 1985-1995
Lott, Trent (MS)* 1995-1996
Nickles, Don (OK) 1996-2003
McConnell, Mitch (KY)* 2003-2007
Lott, Trent (MS) 2007
Kyl, Jon (AZ) 2008-2013
Cornyn, John (TX) 2013-2019
Thune, John (SD) 2019-

*Advanced to Republican party floor leader.

1 Wadsworth became the first Republican party whip in 1915.

2 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 
  Senator Term
Lewis, J. Hamilton (IL) 1913-1919
Gerry, Peter G. (RI) 1919-1929
Sheppard, Morris (TX) 1929-1933
Lewis, J. Hamilton (IL) 1933-1939
Minton, Sherman (IN) 1939-1941
Hill, Joseph Lister (AL) 1941-1947
Lucas, Scott W. (IL)* 1947-1949
Myers, Francis J. (PA) 1949-1951
Johnson, Lyndon B. (TX)* 1951-1953
Clements, Earle C. (KY) 1953-1957
Mansfield, Michael J. (MT)* 1957-1961
Humphrey, Hubert H. (MN) 1961-1965
Long, Russell B. (LA) 1965-1969
Kennedy, Edward M. (MA) 1969-1971
Byrd, Robert C. (WV)* 1971-1977
Cranston, Alan (CA) 1977-1991
Ford, Wendell H. (KY) 1991-1999
Reid, Harry M. (NV)* 1999-2005
Durbin, Richard (IL) 2005-

*Advanced to Democratic party leader.