Samuel Otis, the Senate’s first secretary, was known as the “faithful servant of the Senate,” and this label could be applied to each of his successors as well as the Senate’s many other officers and staff members. Senate officers and staff provide essential services and support to carry out the day to day business of the Senate. Officers include the vice president (the president of the Senate), the president pro tempore, the secretary of the Senate, the sergeant at arms, the Senate chaplain, and the two party secretaries. Explore the duties and functions of these elected officers as well as the varied responsibilities of Senate staff.
Leading the Senate is like “herding cats,” complained Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee in 1998, “trying to make ninety-nine independent souls act in concert.” Even in a legislative body that cherishes independence, however, leadership is essential. In the early years of the Senate, leadership often reflected the experience and seniority of members. By the late nineteenth century, chairmen of committees and party caucuses assumed leadership positions. Not until the 1920s, however, did both parties officially elect a floor leader. Explore the history and evolution of leadership in the U.S. Senate.
“There are 100 diverse personalities in the U.S. Senate,” explained Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois. “O Great God, what an amazing and dissonant 100 personalities they are!” The U.S. Constitution states that the Senate shall be composed of two senators from each State. A senator must be at least thirty years of age, have been a citizen of the United States for nine years, and, when elected, be a resident of the state from which he or she is chosen. Senate terms are six years long and every two years approximately one-third of the 100 senators are elected or reelected to office. Learn more about the individuals who have served in the U.S. Senate since 1789.
“This is a Senate of equals,” Daniel Webster explained in 1830. “We know no masters, we acknowledge no dictators.” Since it first convened in 1789, nearly 2000 individuals have served in the U.S. Senate, each bringing his or her own special talents and qualities to the office. These featured biographies examine the unique personalities and notable accomplishments of some of the Senate’s most memorable individuals.