Secretary of the Senate: Fact Sheet on Legislative and Administrative Duties
Secretary of the Senate: Legislative and
Jacob R. Straus
Analyst on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The Secretary of the Senate is an officer of the Senate elected at the beginning of
each Congress by the membership of the Senate. The Secretary has financial,
administrative, and legislative responsibilities derived from law, Senate rules, and other
sources. In addition, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration maintains
oversight authority over the Secretary of the Senate and issues policies and regulations
governing the Secretary’s duties and responsibilities. The Secretary of the Senate was
established during the First Congress (1789-1791) when Samuel Allyne Otis was elected1
on April 8, 1789.
History of the Secretary of the Senate
The first Secretary of the Senate, Samuel Allyne Otis, was elected on April 8, 1789,
two days after the Senate first achieved a quorum.2 The Secretary of the Senate was
initially responsible for keeping the minutes and records of the Senate, transmitting
messages to the House of Representatives, and purchasing supplies.3
Today, the Secretary of the Senate’s jurisdiction has been expanded far beyond the
original duties. These additional responsibilities include supervision of the clerks,
curators, official recorders of debates, and the parliamentarian; the disbursement of
payroll; the education of the Senate pages;4 and the maintenance of public records. The
1 This report revises an earlier report by Paul E. Dwyer, who recently retired as a Specialist in
American National Government at CRS.
2 Senate debate, Annals of the Congress of the United States, vol. 1 (Apr. 6, 1789), pp. 17-18.
3 U.S. Congress, Senate Historical Office, Secretary of the Senate, [http://www.senate.gov/
artandhistory/history/common/briefing/secretary_senate.htm], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
4 2 U.S.C. § 88b.
Secretary serves as the chief financial officer of the Senate and is custodian of the Senate
seal . 5
Origins of Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of the Secretary of the Senate have developed over
time through several sources. These sources include statutes, Senate rules and orders, and
custom and precedent. Statutes, rules and orders, and other materials may be found in
!the United States Code, which is the codification, by subject matter, of
the general and permanent laws of the United States;6
!the United States Statutes at Large, which is the collection of all laws
and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress;7
!the Senate Manual, which contains the texts of the (1) Standing Rules of
the Senate, (2) standing orders of the senate, (3) rules for the Regulation
of the Senate Wing of the United States Capitol, and (4) excerpts from
laws applicable to the Senate;8 and
!through custom and precedent.9
5 U.S. Congress, Secretary of the Senate, “Senate Seal” [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/
history/common/briefing/Senate_Seal.htm], accessed Aug. 19, 2008. The Senate seal is based
on the Great Seal of the United States and is inscribed with E Pluribus Unum on a shield of
thirteen stars and thirteen vertical stripes. The seal also has olive and oak branches to symbolize
peace and strength, a red liberty cap and crossed fasces to represent freedom and authority,
emanating blue beams of light and the words “United States Senate.” The seal is placed on
impeachment documents and resolutions consenting to international treaties, resolutions
recognizing appointments, and resolutions recognizing commendation and notable achievements.
See also, “Senate Seal,” Congressional Record, vol. 17, part 1 (Mar. 21, 1885), p. 71; “Senate
Seal,” Congressional Record, vol. 17, part 1 (Mar. 31, 1885), p. 96; and U.S. Congress, Riddick’sstnd
Senate Procedure: Precedents and Practices, 101 Cong., 2 sess., S.Doc. 101-28 (Washington:
GPO, 1992), p. 1231.
6 The U.S. Code can be found online at the Office of the Law Revision Counsel website,
[http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
7 The Statutes at Large is prepared and published by the Office of the Federal Register at the
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For more information see
[http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/publications/statutes.html], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
8 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Senate Manual — Containing
the Standing Rules, Orders, Laws, and Resolutions Affecting the Business of the United Statesthst
Senate, S.Doc. 107-1, 107 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2002). The Senate Manual hasth
not been published since the 107 Congress. The Standing Rules of the Senate were most recently
published on September 14, 2007, and can be found on the Senate Committee on Rules and
Administration website [http://rules.senate.gov/senaterules], visited Aug. 12, 2008.
9 For example of some of the precedents of the Senate see, U.S. Congress, Riddick’s Senate
Procedure: Precedents and Practices, 101st Cong., 2nd sess., S.Doc. 101-28 (Washington: GPO,
Many of the duties of the Secretary of the Senate are defined by the Senate
Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
As a consequence of its jurisdiction over Senate administrative matters, the Senate
Committee on Rules and Administration oversees operations of the Secretary of the
Areas of Responsibility
The Secretary of the Senate’s duties and responsibilities can be divided into three
broad categories: financial, administrative, and legislative.10
Financial Responsibilities. The Secretary is the chief financial officer of the
Senate. As such, the Secretary is responsible for funds appropriated to the Senate and for
managing and supervising the disbursing office, which among its financial duties handles
the Senate payroll and related personnel matters. The Secretary also conducts audits of
Senate financial activities. Details on expenditures of funds appropriated to the Senate are
published semi-annually by the Secretary in the Senate document, Report of the Secretary11
of the Senate.
Administrative Responsibilities. The Secretary of the Senate is responsible
for a number of services within the Senate. These responsibilities include
!the Senate Stationery Room;
!the Senate Library;
!the Conservation and Preservation Office; 12
!the Office of Public Records;
!the Senate Historical Office;13
!the Office of Senate Curator;
!the Office of Senate Security; 14
!the Office of Interparliamentary Services;
!the Office of Printing and Document Services;
!the Disbursing Office;
10 U.S. Congress, Senate Historical Office, “April 8, 1789: Help Wanted — The Senate Elects
a Secretary” [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Help_Wanted_-_The_Senate_
Elects_A_Secretary.htm], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
11 2 U.S.C. § 104a.
12 The Office of Public Records processes and maintains records filed with the Secretary,
including records relating to campaign expenses, lobbying disclosure, financial disclosure, the
Code of Conduct, gifts, mass mailings, political fund designees, Senate services, and foreign
travel reimbursement reports. For more information on the Office of Public Records, see
[ h t t p : / / www.s e na t e .gov/ p a ge l a yout / l e gi s l a t i ve / g_t hr e e _ s e c t i ons _wi t h_t e a s e r s / l e gi s l a t i ve _
home.htm], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
13 For more information on the Senate Historical Office, see U.S. Congress, Senate Historical
Senate_Historical_Office.htm], accessed Aug. 19, 2008.
14 The Office of Interparliamentary Services represents the Senate to foreign parliamentary
delegations and assists Senators with international travel.
!the Senate Page Program;15 and
!the Senate Gift Shop (including Gift Shop Revolving Fund).
Other duties of the Secretary of the Senate include maintenance of the Senate public
website; supervision of Senate staff displaced by the death or resignation of a Senator; and
supervision of the Senate legal counsel.
Legislative Responsibilities. The Secretary of the Senate manages functions
that support the legislative process in the Senate, such as signing legislation after Senate
passage.16 The Secretary also supervises the following staff (listed with their roll in the
Senate legislative process):
!Bill Clerk (records the Senate’s official activities and status of
!Enrolling Clerk (prepares Senate-passed legislation before it is sent to the
!Executive Clerk (records Senate actions during executive sessions,
produces the Executive Calendar, and processes nominations and treaty
resolutions received from the President);
!Journal Clerk (records the Senate’s daily legislative proceedings and
prepares a history of legislation for the Senate Journal);
!Legislative Clerk (reads aloud bills and amendments, the Senate Journal,
messages to the Senate; calls the roll and prepares the daily Calendar of
!Official Reporters of Debates (prepare verbatim reports of Senate floor
proceedings for the Congressional Record); and
!Parliamentarian (advises Senators and staff on Senate precedents and
rules, precedents, and statutes related to Senate proceedings).
In addition, the Secretary of the Senate manages the following offices:
15 For more information on the Senate page program see CRS Report 98-758, Pages of the United
States Congress: Selection, Duties, and Program Administration, by Mildred Amer; and CRS
Report RL33685, Pages of the United States Congress: History, Background Information, and
Proposals for Change, by Mildred Amer.
16 On January 3, 1947, the Secretary presided over the opening activities of the Senate, a job
normally handled by the vice president or, in his absence, the president pro tempore of the
Senate. In this case, Secretary of the Senate Leslie L. Biffle presided as a result of Harry Truman
becoming president following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945. See
Congressional Record, vol. 93, part 1 (Jan. 3, 1947), p. 3.
!Daily Digest (preparing the resume of each day’s activities of the Senate
for the Congressional Record, including committee hearings and
meetings, and floor actions);
!Captioning Services Office (provides captions of Senate proceedings for
!Continuity of Operations Program (supports the Senate’s ability to
conduct business and access data at an offsite location, in conjunction
with the Senate Sergeant at Arms).
See [http://www.senate.gov/reference/office/secretary_of_senate.htm] for further
information on the history, structure, and operation of the Secretary of the Senate’s office.
Table 1. Secretary of the Senate
which serviceSecretary of the SenateTerm BeganTerm Concluded
1st (1789-1791)Samuel Allyne OtisApril 8, 1789April 22, 1814 a
13th (1813-1815)Charles CuttsOctober 12, 1814December 12, 1825
19th (1825-1827)Walter LowrieDecember 12, 1825December 5, 1836
24th (1835-1837)Asbury DickinsDecember 13, 1836July 15, 1861
37th (1861-1863)John W. ForneyJuly 15, 1861June 4, 1868
40th (1867-1869)George C. GorhamJune 6, 1868March 24, 1879
46th (1979-1881)John C. BurchMarch 24, 1879 July 28, 1881b
48th (1883-1885)Anson G. McCookDecember 18, 1883August 7, 1893
53rd (1893-1895)William Ruffin CoxAugust 7, 1893January 31, 1099
56th (1899-1901)Charles G. BennettFebruary 1, 1900March 13, 1913
63rd (1913-1915)James M. BakerMarch 13, 1913May 19, 1919
66th (1919-1921)George A. SandersonMay 19, 1919April 24, 1925
69th (1925-1927)Edwin Pope ThayerDecember 7, 1925March 9, 1933
73rd (1933-1935)Edwin A. HalseyMarch 9, 1933January 29, 1945
79th (1945-1947)Leslie BiffleFebruary 8, 1945January 4, 1947 c
80th (1947-1949)Carl A. LoefflerJanuary 4, 1947January 3, 1949
81st (1949-1951)Leslie BiffleJanuary 3, 1949January 3, 1953
83rd (1953-1955)J. Mark TriceJanuary 3, 1953January 5, 1955
84th (1955-1957)Felton M. JohnstonJanuary 5, 1955December 30, 1965
89th (1965-1967)Emery L. FrazierJanuary 1, 1966September 30, 1966 d
which serviceSecretary of the SenateTerm BeganTerm Concluded
Francis R. ValeoOctober 1, 1966March 31, 1977
95th (1977-1979)J. Stanley KimmittApril 1, 1977January 4, 1981
97th (1981-1983)William F. HildenbrandJanuary 5, 1981January 2, 1985
99th (1985-1987)Jo-Anne L. CoeJanuary 3, 1985January 6, 1987 e
100th (1987-1995)Walter J. StewartJanuary 6, 1987April 15, 1994
103rd (1993-1995)Martha S. PopeApril 15, 1994January 3, 1995
104th (1995-1997)Sheila P. BurkeJanuary 4, 1995June 7, 1995
Kelly D. JohnstonJune 8, 1995September 30, 1996
Gary Lee SiscoOctober 1, 1996July 11, 2001
107th (2001-2003)Jeri ThomsonJuly 12, 2001January 6, 2003
108th (2003-2005)Emily J. ReynoldsJanuary 7, 2003January 4, 2007
110th (2007-2009)Nancy EricksonJanuary 4, 2007Present
Source: Senate Historical Office [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/
secretary_senate.htm], accessed Aug. 19, 2008.
Samuel Otis died in office four days after the end of the second session of the 13th Congress. When the
third session convened on September 19, 1814, Chief Clerk Samuel Turner, Jr., was sworn in as
acting secretary. Turner served until Charles Cutts took office the following month.b
Francis E. Shober was elected Acting Secretary on October 25, 1881 and served until December 18, 1883.
Shober continued to serve as a result of an equally divided Senate that could not choose a permanent
Leslie Biffle also served as Acting Secretary between January 29 and February 8, 1945, following Edwin
Frazier was elected on August 20, 1965 by S.Res. 140 which specified that his term begin on January 1,
1966 and terminate on September 30, 1966. Frazier was sworn in on October 22, 1965 and began his17
service on January 1, 1966. e
Jo-Anne Coe was the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Senate.
17 Senate Journal, Volume 174, page 955(89th Congress, 1st session).