The President Pro Tempore of the Senate: History and Authority of the Office
The President Pro Tempore of the Senate:
History and Authority of the Office
Updated April 2, 2008
Christopher M. Davis
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
The President Pro Tempore of the Senate
History and Authority of the Office
The U.S. Constitution establishes the office of the President pro tempore of the
Senate to preside over the Senate in the Vice President’s absence. Since 1947, the
President pro tempore has stood third in line to succeed to the presidency, after the
Vice President and the Speaker of the House.
Although the President pro tempore’s powers are limited and not comparable
to those of the Speaker of the House, as the chamber’s presiding officer, he is
authorized to perform certain duties. For example, he may decide points of order
(subject to appeal) and enforce decorum in the Senate chamber and galleries.
Early in the nation’s history, some Presidents pro tempore appointed Senators
to standing committees. While they no longer do so, election to the office is
considered one of the highest honors bestowed by the Senate, and Presidents pro
tempore are traditionally accorded a somewhat larger salary and allowances for staff.
Eighty-seven different Senators have served as President pro tempore. Sixty-
one served prior to 1900, when Vice Presidents routinely presided over the chamber
and Presidents pro tempore were elected to serve only for limited periods when the
Vice President was absent or ill, or the office was vacated. Frequently, several
different Presidents pro tempore were chosen in a single congressional session, “on
the basis of their personal characteristics, popularity, and reliability.” (See Robert C.
Byrd, “President Pro Tempore of the Senate,” in Donald C. Bacon, Roger H.
Davidson, and Morton Keller, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Congress, 4 vols., New
York: Simon & Schuster, 1995, vol. 3, p. 1604.) The President pro tempore in the
Since 1890, the President pro tempore has customarily been the majority party
Senator with the longest continuous service. Twice, the Senate has also created an
office of Deputy President pro tempore to honor a colleague, and an office of
Permanent Acting President pro tempore in a third instance for the same reason. In
This report traces the constitutional origins and development of the office of
President pro tempore of the Senate, reviews its current role and authority, and
provides information on Senators who have held this office, and the more recently
created subsidiary offices, over the past two centuries.
In troduction ......................................................1
Historical Development of the Office of the President Pro Tempore..........3
Election to the Office...........................................7
Practice of President Pro Tempore Being the Senator With Longest
Power, Authority, and Responsibilities of the President Pro Tempore.........9
Power and Authority as Presiding Officer...........................9
Position as Presidential Successor................................12
Other Duties and Responsibilities................................12
Political Influence of the Office..................................14
Offices of the Deputy President Pro Tempore, the Permanent Acting
President Pro Tempore, and the President Pro Tempore Emeritus.......16
Office of the Deputy President Pro Tempore........................16
Office of the Permanent Acting President Pro Tempore...............17
Office of the President Pro Tempore Emeritus......................18
For Additional Reading............................................30
Appendix. Political Party Abbreviations..............................32
List of Tables
Table 1. Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate, 1789-2007................19
Table 2. Deputy Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate, 1977-2007.........28
Table 3. Permanent Acting President Pro Tempore of the Senate, 1964-2007..28
Table 4. Presidents Pro Tempore Emeritus of the Senate, 2001-2007........29
The President Pro Tempore of the Senate:
History and Authority of the Office
The President pro tempore of the Senate is one of only three legislative officers
established by the U.S. Constitution. The other two are the Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the Vice President of the United States, who also serves as
President of the Senate. The Constitution designates the President pro tempore to
serve in the Vice President’s absence. The President pro tempore is often popularly
known as the President pro tem.
The role of the President pro tempore has evolved since John Langdon of New
Hampshire first took the chair on April 6, 1789, in the absence of Vice President
John Adams.1 Once only temporary stand-ins for the Vice President, contemporary
Presidents pro tempore now effectively serve as long as their party holds a majority
in the Senate. By virtue of the Succession Act of 1792, the President pro tempore
stood second in the line of presidential succession after the Vice President for nearly
a century. The Succession Act of 1886 removed the President pro tempore as a
successor. With the passage of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the
President pro tempore was restored to the line of succession, this time following the
Vice President and the Speaker of the House. At one time Presidents pro tempore
appointed committee members and wielded considerable power within the Senate,
but are now more limited in their independent authority.
Perhaps the greatest change in the office came in 1890, when the Senate decided
that Presidents pro tempore would hold the office continuously until the election of
a successor, regardless of whether the Vice President was present or absent. Since
that time, the office has been customarily occupied by the most senior Senator of the
majority party. Although the office’s practical authority has diminished, it remains
powerfully symbolic of the dignity of the United States Senate. As one noted
historian of the Senate has written, “election of a [S]enator to the office of the
[P]resident pro tempore has always been considered one of the highest honors offered2
to a [S]enator by the Senate as a body.”
1 John Langdon was first elected President pro tempore on April 6, 1789, for the purpose of
counting the electoral vote ballots for President and Vice President. Technically, he did not
replace Vice President John Adams in the chair, but served prior to the Vice President’s
formal election on that day. See Debates and Proceedings of the Congress of the United
States, vol. 1, April 6, 1789 (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834), pp. 16-17, 22. Vice
President Adams first appeared in the Senate on April 21,1789.
2 Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989: Its History and Practice, 100th Cong., 1st sess.,
On January 4, 2007, the first day of the 110th Congress, the Senate approved
S.Res. 3, electing Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, to be President pro
tempore of the Senate.
In addition to a survey of the origins, history, and authorities of the office of the
President pro tempore, this report includes accompanying tables that provide further
historical data. Table 1 identifies each of the Presidents pro tempore since 1789.
Table 2 provides information on the two Senators who have held the office of
Deputy President pro tempore. Historical data on the single Senator to serve as
Permanent Acting President pro tempore is found in Table 3. The recently
established office of President pro tempore Emeritus is noted in Table 4. A brief
bibliography is also provided. An appendix explains the abbreviations used to denote
party affiliations in Table 1.
In addition to statutory law and rules of the Senate, other sources provide
information on the office of the President pro tempore. The principal source for party
affiliations in Table 1 is Senator Robert C. Byrd’s The Senate, 1789-1989, vol. IV:
Historical Statistics, 1789-1992.3 The Senate Manual contains tables similar to
Tables 1 and 2 in this report.4
The official compilation of Senate precedents, including those relating to the
President pro tempore, is printed as Riddick’s Senate Procedure. The latest version,
revised and edited by Senate parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin, was printed in 19925
(S.Doc. 101-28). Senate precedents are also available online from the Senate Legis
database, although they are complete only through 1988. Online statutory
information about the President pro tempore can also be found in commercial data
bases such as Lexis-Nexis, and for free through the website of the U.S. Government6
Printing Office and its United States Code search engine. Recent scholarship also
contributed to this report.7
S.Doc. 100-20 (Washington: GPO, 1988-1994), vol 2, p. 183.
3 Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989, vol. 4, pp. 647-653.
4 Senate Manual, 107th Cong., 1st sess., S.Doc. 107-1 (Washington: GPO, 2002), pp. 991-
5 Floyd M. Riddick and Alan S. Frumin, Riddick’s Senate Procedure: Precedents and
Practices, 101st Cong., 1st sess., S.Doc. 101-28 (Washington: GPO, 1992).
6 See U.S. Government Printing Office’s website at [http://www.access.gpo.gov/].
7 See Gerald Gamm and Stephen S. Smith, Last Among Equals: The Senate’s Presiding
Officer, paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science
Association, Boston, September, 1998. Hereafter, Gamm and Smith, Last Among Equals.
Historical Development of the Office of the
President Pro Tempore
Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution declares that:
The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore in
the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of
President of the United States.
Aside from the Vice President’s designation as President of the Senate, the President
pro tempore is the only position in the Senate explicitly established by the
After a sufficient number of Senators arrived to constitute a quorum for the First
Congress on April 6, 1789, the credentials of those present were approved and
ordered filed. Next, the chamber selected a President of the Senate “for the sole8
purpose of opening and counting the votes for President of the United States.” John
Langdon of New Hampshire was elected, and performed this task. After the election
of John Adams as Vice President, the Senate immediately “proceeded by ballot to the
choice of a President of their body, pro tempore” because Adams had not yet arrived9
to assume his duties as President of the Senate.
Again, Langdon was chosen, this time to preside over the Senate, and he
continued to do so until Vice President Adams appeared in the chamber on April 21,
1789. When Vice President Adams took the chair, Langdon’s service as President
pro tempore came to an end. Langdon was re-elected to the office on August 7,10
For more than a century, the Senate acted upon the theory that a President pro
tempore could be chosen only in the absence of the Vice President, and that the
tenure of a President pro tempore expired when the Vice President resumed his duties11
in the Senate. Under this interpretation of the Constitution, the Senate elected a
8 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 1st Cong., 1st sess., April 6, 1789, p. 7.
9 Ibid., p. 8.
10 Ibid., p. 14; also, George H. Haynes, The Senate of the United States, 2 vols. (New York:
Russell and Russell,  1960), vol. 1, p. 249.
11 In its report of January 6, 1876, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections
declared: “The office of the president pro tempore of the Senate must expire whenever the
absence of the Vice President is at an end and he appears in the Senate to preside.” U.S.thst
Congress, Senate, [Election of President Pro Tempore], 44 Cong., 1 sess., S.Rept. 3
(Washington: GPO, 1876), p. 2. See also, George P. Furber, Precedents Relating to thendnd
Privileges of the Senate of the United States, 52 Cong., 2 sess., S. Misc. Doc. 68
President pro tempore each time the Vice President was absent at the beginning of
a daily session. Between April 1789 and March 1890, the Senate elected Presidents
pro tempore on no fewer than 166 occasions. A record 10 such elections were held
during the 42nd Congress.
During the period from April 1789 to March 1890, Presidents pro tempore
usually served no more than a few consecutive days before the Vice President
returned to displace them. A few men, however, did enjoy relatively long
uninterrupted tenures because of the death, extended illness, or chronic absenteeism
of some Vice Presidents, or because of a vice presidential vacancy following the
death of a President.
Between 1811 and 1825, for example, John Gaillard of South Carolina and, to
a lesser degree, James Barbour of Virginia, served as Presidents pro tempore for
considerable periods due to the deaths of two Vice Presidents and the absenteeism
of a third. Two different Senators were President pro tempore for nearly four years
after Vice President John Tyler assumed the presidency in March 1841 following
William Henry Harrison’s death one month after his inauguration as chief executive.
Samuel L. Southard of New Jersey occupied the chair for the remainder of 1841 and
the first five months of 1842, when Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina was chosen
President pro tempore. Mangum served until the inauguration of the next Vice
President, George M. Dallas on March 3, 1845.
Similarly, William R. King of Alabama served extensively in the chair during
the late 1830s and early 1840s by virtue of his election as President pro tempore on
nine consecutive occasions, between July 1836 and March 1841. King also held the
position continuously from mid-1850 through late 1852 after Vice President Millard
Fillmore succeeded to the presidency upon President Zachary Taylor’s death.
Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio also enjoyed a long term as President pro
tempore after Andrew Johnson became President following President Abraham
Lincoln’s assassination, as did Senator John Sherman of Ohio, and subsequently John
J. Ingalls of Kansas following Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks death in 1885.12
By the late 19th century, the Senate’s workload had grown dramatically and the
political parties had increasingly assumed responsibility for organizing the work of
the chamber and controlling debate on the floor.13 The role of the presiding officer
was consequently diminished. Moreover, questions had arisen over the years about
the election of the President pro tempore. For example, is the President pro tempore
of the Senate an officer of the Senate, and, does the death of the Vice President after
the election of a President pro tempore have the effect of vacating the office of the
President pro tempore and requiring a new election? These questions were raised in
(Washington: GPO, 1893), p. 176.
12 Until the 20th century there was no seniority system in the Senate. Of the Senators elected
President pro tempore between 1870 and 1900, only two ranked first in their party.
“[S]enators instead tended to elect men who were distinguished, popular, and familiar with
parliamentary law.” Gamm and Smith, Last Among Equals, p. 4.
13 Ibid., p. 15.
concrete form following the death in November 1875 of Vice President Henry
Wilson, who was considered a “highly efficient and acceptable presiding officer.”14
In January 1876 a report by the Committee on Privileges and Elections responded to
these and other questions involving the “character and tenure”of the President pro
After debate on the committee’s report, the Senate adopted several clarifying
resolutions. First, it determined that the tenure of a President pro tempore elected at
one session would continue without interruption through a recess and into the next
session until the Vice President appeared.
Second, it decided that the death of a Vice President did not automatically
vacate the office of the President pro tempore if one had been properly chosen.
Third, the Senate affirmed its authority to replace a President pro tempore whenever
These questions were of more than internal Senate interest throughout this
period, since the President pro tempore followed the Vice President in the order of
succession to the presidency. The Succession Act of 1792 provided that if both the
President and Vice President were to die or otherwise become unable to exercise the
powers of the presidency at a time when the Senate was officially absent from the
nation’s capital, and if that body had not chosen a President pro tempore to hold the
office during the recess, then the Speaker of the House, under the law, would “act as
President of the United States ....”17
Considering the transportation available in those days, it might take weeks
before enough Senators could reassemble and choose a new President pro tempore.
Prudence therefore required that the Senate should elect someone to hold that office
during the recesses between sessions of a Congress. Because the Senate at the time
acted upon the theory that it could not choose a President pro tempore while the Vice
President was present, it quickly became the custom after 1792 for the latter to
withdraw from the chamber shortly before the end of a session so that Senators might
“legally” elect one of their own to the position.18 Further, historian George H.
14 George Henry Haynes, “Henry Wilson,” in Dictionary of American Biography, 10 vols.,
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), vol. 10, p. 324.
15 U.S. Congress, Senate, [Election of President Pro Tempore], 44th Cong., 1st sess., S.Rept.
16 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, “Election of President Pro Tempore,” 44th Cong., 1st sess.
(Washington: GPO, 1875), p. 90, 99. See also: “Office of the President Pro Tempore,”
Congressional Record, vol. 4 (January 10, 1876), pp. 311-316, and (January 11, 1876), pp.
360-373. These resolutions formalized what had been the usual, though unwritten practice
of the Senate prior to their adoption.
17 1 Stat. 240.
18 U.S. Congress, Senate, “Election of President Pro Tempore,” 44th Cong., 1st sess., S.Rept.
vol. 1, p. 256.
In order that a Senator might be in a position to take upon himself the duties of
President of the United States if the necessity should arise, a precedent, set by
John Adams and scrupulously followed by Jefferson and Burr, was established
whereby the Vice-President would absent himself — ‘out of courtesy, not
necessity,’ as Senator Evarts insisted — a day or so before the end of the session,
to afford the Senate an opportunity to elect a President pro tempore who should19
hold office during the recess.
Such withdrawals, as noted, were matters of courtesy rather than law, and while
most Vice Presidents adhered to the custom, a few, inevitably, did not, usually
because of critical political circumstances.20 When both the President pro tempore
and the Speaker of the House were removed from the line of succession by the
Succession Act of January 19, 1886, the necessity for such maneuvers was21
Four years later the Senate resolved the question of the President pro tempore’s
tenure when it adopted a resolution originally introduced by Senator William M.
Evarts of New York. As adopted by the Senate on March 12, 1890, the resolution
Resolved, That it is competent for the Senate to elect a President pro tempore,
who shall hold the office during the pleasure of the Senate and until another is
elected, and shall execute the duties thereof during all future absences of the22
Vice-President until the Senate otherwise order.
That resolution is still in effect. Under its terms a President pro tempore, once
elected, holds the post continuously whether or not the Vice President is absent
(although, of course, he may not preside over the Senate unless the Vice President
steps down from the chair). The tenure of the President pro tempore ends upon the
expiration of the term for which he was elected Senator, a precedent dating back to
at least 1841. He may, of course, resign, or the Senate may elect another in his stead
at its pleasure.
19 Haynes, The Senate of the United States, vol. 1, p. 256.
20 For example, Vice President Elbridge Gerry refused to vacate the chair in 1813 when
President James Madison was seriously ill and the administration’s adversaries controlled
the Senate. Similarly, Vice President George M. Dallas refused to retire at the end of the
special session of 1845. Furber, Precedents Relating to the Privileges of the Senate, p. 179.
“In Mar. 1881, the casting vote of the Vice-President was necessary to secure for the
Republicans the organization of the Senate. Under those circumstances their ability to elect
a President pro tempore was so uncertain that Vice-President Chester A. Arthur, like Vice
President Gerry in 1813, ‘sat the session out;’ and Congress adjourned, May 20, with no one
beyond the Vice President in the line of succession .... Four years later, Vice-President
Thomas A. Hendricks continued to occupy the Chair till the end of the short session, Apr.
2, thus preventing the Republicans, then in majority, from choosing a President pro
tempore.” Haynes, The Senate of the United States, vol. 1, pp. 257-258.
21 See CRS Report RL31761, Presidential Succession: An Overview with Analysis of
Legislation Proposed in the 108th Congress, by Thomas H. Neale.
22 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 50th Cong., 2nd sess., p. 165. See also “President Pro
Tempore of the Senate,” Congressional Record, vol. 21 (March 12, 1890), pp. 2144-2150.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 restored the President pro tempore to
the line of succession, placing him after the Vice President and Speaker of the House
and ahead of the cabinet.23 But neither the 1947 Act nor the 25th Amendment to the
Constitution, which further clarifies the rule of presidential succession, has any
impact on the tenure of the President pro tempore in his relationship to the Senate as
the chamber’s presiding officer.
Election to the Office
The usual practice of the Senate has been to elect as its President pro tempore
a candidate of the majority party — almost invariably by a party line vote. Most
often, that person has continued to serve in the post so long as his party remains in
On a few occasions, the majority party has experienced difficulty in electing its
candidate. Late in 1881, for example, Democrats in the Senate refused to permit
administration of the oath of office to several Republicans waiting to be sworn in as
Senators. As a result of this, the Democrats maintained a narrow majority of the
votes in the chamber and proceeded to elect one of their own, Delaware’s Thomas
F. Bayard, as President pro tempore. Even after the missing Republicans had been
installed, the Senate remained equally divided between the two major parties. An
arrangement was eventually agreed upon and an independent Senator, David Davis
of Illinois, was elected to replace Bayard as President pro tempore.24
When the 62nd Congress convened in 1911, Republicans held a nominal majority
of seats in the Senate. A faction of seven progressive Republicans, however, refused
to vote for the regular Republican candidate for President pro tempore and their
defection prevented election of a presiding officer. (While neither the Constitution
nor the rules of the Senate explicitly exclude election of a President pro tempore by
a plurality, the practice of the Senate has been to assume that a majority vote is
required.) One observer noted:
After fifteen ballots, distributed through five days, compromise became
necessary to enable business to go forward. Upon motion of a Republican leader,
a Democrat was unanimously elected President pro tempore for a single day, and
thereafter for the rest of the session, ending August 26, 1912, Presidents pro
tempore were elected for brief, designated periods, Senator [Augustus] Bacon,
Democrat, alternating with four Republicans, some of whom served for but a
single day. In the short session which ended that sixty-second Congress, this
alternating arrangement was continued, [Augustus] Bacon, Democrat, and25
[Jacob] Gallinger, Republican, each serving a fortnight at a time.
23 61 Stat. 380.
24 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 47th Cong., 1st sess., pp. 7, 10, 14.
25 Haynes, The Senate of the United States, 1, p. 252.
Practice of President Pro Tempore Being
the Senator With Longest Service
Of the 13 Presidents pro tempore who have served since 1945, only one has not
been the most senior Senator in his party — Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan,26
was the second ranking Republican in the Senate at the time of his election in 1947.
Prior to 1945, while the parties had for the most part tended to put forward men
with long senatorial service as candidates for President pro tempore, there were someth
notable exceptions. Senator George H. Moses of New Hampshire ranked only 15
among Senate Republicans when he was elected President pro tempore in 1925, andth
Senator Albert B. Cummins of Iowa ranked 12 when he was first chosen in 1919.
In 1846, Senator David R. Atchison of Missouri was elected President pro tempore
before he had completed half his first term as a Senator, and Senator Willard
Saulsbury of Delaware was also still in his first term when the Senate elevated him
to the post on December 14, 1916.
Even during the 19th century, the Senate sometimes elected Presidents pro
tempore from among the longest serving members of the Senate. Men like Senators
William P. Frye of Maine, John J. Ingalls of Kansas, Allen G. Thurman of Ohio, and
Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island held significant seniority when elected Presidentth
pro tempore. That tradition continued and evolved in the 20 century, with the
exceptions noted above. By the middle of the 20th century, the Senate routinely
elected as its President pro tempore the most senior Senator of the majority party.
Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina is one of two Senators in the post-
war era to serve at least three non-consecutive terms as President pro tem. He firstth
served from 1981 to 1987, and then was elected again at the beginning of the104
Congress in 1995. Following the interim election of Senator Robert C. Byrd of Westth
Virginia (the most senior Democrat) to serve at the start of the 107 Congress (from
January 3, 2001 to January 20, 2001), Senator Thurmond was again elected as
President pro tempore to serve beginning at noon on January 20, 2001.
The President pro tempore during the 108th and 109th Congresses was Senator
Ted Stevens of Alaska. He succeeded Senator Thurmond who retired from theth
Senate at the end of the 107 Congress. Senator Stevens serves as President pro tem
Emeritus in the 110th Congress.
Senator Robert C. Byrd, the only Senator in the modern era to serve four non-
consecutive terms, was first elected President pro tempore in 1989, and served until
again elected President pro tempore in the 107 Congress on June 6, 2001, after
26 Arthur Capper of Kansas was the senior Republican Senator in 1947. Arthur Vandenberg,
however, had been his party’s choice for President pro tempore for several Congresses
before the Republicans ascended to the majority in 1947. He was considered by party
leaders more in the party’s mainstream than Capper; and Capper, himself, was in poor
health. Interview with Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian, Senate Historical Office,
October 19, 2000.
Senator James Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party and became an
Independent, and control of the Senate switched to the Democrats. Senator Byrd
began his present, fourth non-consecutive, term when he was elected President pro
tem by his colleagues on January 4, 2007, at the beginning 110th Congress.
In 1816, Congress for the first time accorded the President pro tempore a larger
salary than that allotted to other Senators, but only when the office of Vice President
was vacant.27 In 1818, the law was amended so that the President pro tempore would
receive additional compensation for each day he presided over the Senate, whether
the office of Vice President was vacant, or the Vice President was absent.28
In 1845, and again in 1854, when the office of the Vice President was vacant,
the Senate in each case adopted a resolution authorizing compensation for the
President pro tempore that was equal to that established by law for the Vice
President.29 The practice of compensating Presidents pro tempore at the same rate
as the Vice President when the vice presidency is vacant was confirmed in law on
August 16, 1856.30 In 1969, the salary of the President pro tempore was fixed at the
same level as that of the majority and minority leaders of both houses.31 When a
vacancy exists in the office of the Vice President, the President pro tempore receives
the salary provided the Vice President.32
Power, Authority, and Responsibilities of the
President Pro Tempore
The President pro tempore lacks the formal institutional and political powers of
the Speaker of the House — the congressional officer to whom he is often compared.
Nor does he have the stature and authority of the major party leaders in the Senate,
especially the majority and minority floor leaders. Nevertheless, the Constitution,
public law, the chamber’s rules and precedents, and Senate customs provide the
President pro tempore a significant role to play in the life of the Senate.
Power and Authority as Presiding Officer
For about 10 years, from late 1823 to late 1833, Presidents pro tempore enjoyed
the privilege of appointing the membership of the Senate’s standing committees at
27 3 Stat. 257.
28 3 Stat. 404.
29 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 28th Cong., 2nd sess., p. 243; also, Senate Journal, 33rd
Cong., 2nd sess., p. 31.
30 11 Stat. 48.
31 83 Stat. 107.
32 11 Stat. 48.
the beginning of a session.33 Several times during the later years of this period the
rule was partially suspended so that the Senate could elect the President pro tempore
to a chairmanship.34 The President pro tempore also evidently appointed Senators to
committees in 1838, 1843, and 1863.35
As a presiding officer, the powers and prerogatives of the President pro tempore
historically have differed little from those of the Vice President. One notable
exception involves the privilege of appointing a substitute to perform the duties of
the chair. From 1820 until 1883, the Senate operated under a rule stating, in part, that
“the Presiding Officer shall have the right to name a Senator to perform the duties of
the Chair, but such substitution shall not extend beyond an adjournment.”36
That rule was subsequently amended to restrict the privilege solely to the
President pro tempore.37 Moreover, the Senate had many times previously honored
the request of a President pro tempore that another Senator take his place for a day
or longer, while denying the same privilege to the Vice President.38
In 1902, the rules were further amended to empower the President pro tempore
to designate a Senator to perform the duties of the chair for an unspecified time
during a vacancy in the office of Vice President.39 Usually the President pro tempore
designates members of his own party to replace him in the chair, but not always. In
33 Furber, Precedents Relating to the Privileges of the Senate, pp. 335-336; Haynes, pp. 273-
34 Henry H. Gilfrey, Precedents: Decisions on Points of Order with Phraseology ... 1789-
35 Furber, Precedents Relating to the Privileges of the Senate, pp. 337, 339.
36 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 16th Cong., 1st sess., p. 63.
37 “Rule 1: Appointment of a Senator to the Chair,” Congressional Record, vol. 15,
(December 18, 1883), pp. 160-163; and “Amendment to Rule 1,” Ibid., vol. 16, January 7,
38 For an example of the Senate’s refusal to accept a direct substitution made by the Vice
President, see the incident of January 11, 1847, when the Senate ignored a letter from Vice
President George M. Dallas designating Senator David R. Atchison to preside for that day,
defeated a resolution appointing Atchison President pro tempore, and then proceeded tothnd
elect Atchison to the post by ballot. See U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 29 Cong., 2
sess., pp. 161-164. For examples of action by the President pro tempore to appoint
substitutes, see Furber, Precedents Relating to the Privileges or the Senate, pp. 186-188.
39 Senate Rule I(3). The rule today reads: “The President pro tempore shall have the right
to name in open Senate, or, if absent, in writing, a Senator to perform the duties of the Chair,
including the signing of duly enrolled bills and joint resolutions but such substitution shall
not extend beyond an adjournment, except by unanimous consent; and the Senator so named
shall have the right to name in open session, or if absent, in writing, a Senator to perform
the duties of the Chair, but not to extend beyond an adjournment, except by unanimous
a notable exception, President pro tempore Carl Hayden, a Democrat, once appointed
Republican Senator George D. Aiken of Vermont to preside for a day.40
Under the Constitution, the Vice President may cast a vote in the Senate only
when the body is equally divided.41 The question of whether a President pro tempore
retained his vote while he was performing the duties of his office was clarified by a
Senate resolution adopted on April 19, 1792, which declared that he retained “his
right to vote upon all questions.”42
In the modern Senate, with the exception of his authority to appoint other
Senators to preside, the President pro tempore’s powers as presiding officer differ
little from those of the Vice-President, or any other Senator who presides over the
Senate. These powers include the authority to
!recognize Senators desiring to speak, introduce bills, or offer
amendments and motions to bills being debated. The presiding
officer’s power of recognition is much more limited than that of the
House Speaker or whomever presides in the House. In the Senate,
the presiding officer is required by Rule XIX to recognize the first
Senator on his feet and seeking recognition.43 By tradition, leaders
and committee managers are given precedence in recognition;
!decide points of order, subject to appeal by the full Senate;
!appoint Senators to House-Senate conference committees, although
this function is largely ministerial. Conferees are almost always first
determined by the chairman and ranking member of the standing
committee with jurisdiction over the measure, often in consultation
with party leaders. A list of the recommended appointments is then
provided to the chair;
!administer oaths; and
!appoint members to special committees, again, after initial
determinations are made by the majority and minority leaders.44
40 “Designation of Acting President Pro Tempore,” Congressional Record, vol. 112, August
41 U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sec. 3.
42 U.S. Congress, Senate Journal, 2nd Cong., 1st sess., p. 429.
43 Senate Rule XIX(1)(a), 108th Congress.
44 Details of these powers can be found in Senate Manual Containing the Standing Rules,
Orders, Laws and Resolutions Affecting the Business of the U.S. Senate, 107th Cong., 1st
sess., S.Doc. 107-1 (Washington: GPO, 2002), pp. 485, 808, 814, 828.
Position as Presidential Successor
In the earliest years of the nation, the President pro tempore was not included
in the order of succession, which at first extended only as far as the Vice President.
The Succession Act of 1792 designated, after the Vice President, the President pro
tempore and the Speaker of the House, in that order.45 A later statute, the Succession
Act of 1886 transferred succession after the Vice President from the President pro
tempore and the Speaker to the cabinet officers in the chronological order in which
their departments had been created.46 With the passage of the Succession Act of
1947, the President pro tempore was restored as a successor to the presidency after
the Vice President and Speaker of the House.47
Although ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967 did not supplant the order
of succession established by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, it empowered
the President to nominate a Vice President whenever that office is vacant, and
rendered it unlikely that the President pro tempore would become President except
in the event of an unprecedented national catastrophe.48
Other Duties and Responsibilities
Over the years, other powers have also accrued to the President pro tempore.
Many of these are formal or ministerial. Decisions are first made by each party’s
principal political leaders — in the Senate, the majority and minority floor leaders
— and the President pro tempore’s charge is to implement their decisions. These
include appointments to the following positions:
!Director of the Congressional Budget Office (made jointly with the
Speaker of the House);
!Senate legislative counsel and legal counsel;
!Senators to serve on trade delegations; and
!certain commissions, advisory boards, and committees, such as the
boards of visitors to the U.S. military academies; the American49
Folklife Center; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
45 1 Stat. 240.
46 24 Stat. 1.
47 61 Stat 380. At the time, President Harry S. Truman argued that it was more appropriate
and democratic to have popularly elected officials first in line to succeed, rather than
appointed cabinet officers.
48 CRS Report RL31761, Presidential Succession: An Overview with Analysis of Legislation
Proposed in the 108th Congress, by Thomas H. Neale.
49 For a comprehensive list of commissions to which the President pro tem makes
appointments, see CRS Report RL33313, Congressional Commissions, Committees, Boards,
and Groups: Appointment Authority and Membership, by Matthew Eric Glassman.
The President pro tempore is responsible for recommending candidates to be
U.S. Comptroller General, the head of the General Accounting Office (GAO). The
President pro tempore jointly supervises, with a House officer selected by the
Speaker, the activities of the congressional page school.50
Following the recommendation of the Senate majority and minority leaders, he
appoints members of the Senate to the United States Delegation to the Parliamentary
Assembly Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.51
Under statute, the President pro tempore also makes recommendations for
membership to the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence In National
Environmental Policy Foundation, and the James Madison Memorial Fellowship
Program.52 Similarly, he makes appointments to the National Commission on Social
Security, the Social Security Advisory Board, the Advisory Council on
Unemployment Compensation, the National Commission on Children, the
Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the board of the Christopher
Columbus Fellowship Foundation.53
The President pro tempore is authorized to receive certain reports from
government offices. Examples of these include
!a report pursuant to research efforts by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to prevent pollution of shellfish beds;54
!an annual report pursuant to a Department of Agriculture program
to improve conservation and sustainable agriculture in Latin
America and the Caribbean;55 and
!an annual report on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention
After the President has submitted a report pursuant to the War Powers Act, the
President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House have the authority to request
jointly that the President convene Congress in order to consider the content of the
report and to take appropriate action.57 The President pro tempore also prepares a
report pursuant to the War Powers Resolution setting forth the circumstances,
50 For the above, see Senate Manual, 107th Cong., p. 828.
51 22 U.S.C. 276m.
52 20 U.S.C. 5603 and 20 U.S.C. 4502.
53 42 U.S.C. 907a, 42 U.S.C. 903, 42 U.S.C. 1108, 42 U.S.C. 1320b-9, 22 U.S.C. 6431, and
54 33 U.S.C. 2407.
55 7 U.S.C. 1738(m).
56 42 U.S.C. 5617.
57 50 U.S.C. 1544 (a).
constitutional authority, and estimated scope and duration relating to American forces
involved in foreign hostilities.58
The President pro tempore is a member of certain commissions, boards and
!Senate Commission on Art;
!U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission;
!commission to recommend individuals to be Architect of the
!congressional Joint Leadership Group.59
Also, the President pro tempore works with the Secretary of the Senate and the
Sergeant at Arms of the Senate to ensure the enforcement of the rules governing the
use of the Capitol and the Senate office buildings.60
For many years the President pro tempore held the “patronage book,” as it was
called, and had considerable influence in the distribution of patronage for positions
that today are filled by professional staff. Carl Hayden of Arizona, who served as
President pro tempore from 1957 to 1969, was the last President pro tempore to
exercise this authority.61
Finally, in his history of the Senate, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia,
who has served as President pro tempore four times since 1989, notes that “Because
the president pro tempore stands in the line of presidential succession, he is given a
direct-access telephone to the White House and would receive special evacuation
assistance from Washington in the case of national emergency.”62
Political Influence of the Office
Senator Arthur Vandenberg, who held the position from 1947 to 1949, was seen
as one of the few Presidents pro tempore up to that time who exerted significant
political influence. Floyd M. Riddick, a scholar of congressional procedure who later
became Senate parliamentarian, wrote in 1949 that Vandenberg, who chaired the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee while serving as President pro tempore, “took
quite an important part in the legislative program and no doubt exerted as much
58 50 U.S.C. 1543.
59 Senate Manual, 107th Cong., pp., 336, 763,781,785.
60 Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989, vol. 2, p. 183.
61 Ibid., p. 182.
influence in what was done and not done as the Speaker of the House.”63
Vandenberg, Riddick emphasized, “was firm in his rulings, of which all but one or
two stood as the decision of the Senate, even though several appeals were taken; he
participated in discussions of the pending legislation from the chair, perhaps to an
unprecedented extent during any Congress of recent years ....”64
More recently, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, despite being hospitalized
for much of his term as President pro tempore (1969-1971), was seen as wielding
power “potentially equal” to that of Vandenberg through his chairmanships of the
Appropriations Committee and its Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.65
Today, the degree of political influence exerted by the President pro tempore
depends more on other factors in conjunction with a Senator’s position as President
pro tempore, than solely on election to that office. The most important of these are
a Senator’s position as a senior member of his party, and as a committee chairman.
As the most senior Senator of the majority party, his chairmanship is likely to be
significant. For example, during the years he was President pro tempore for the first
time (1989-1995), Senator Byrd was also chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
When the Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control on June 6, 2001,
Senator Byrd was elected President pro tempore and returned to chair the
Appropriations Committee. As President pro tempore, Senator Thurmond chaired
the Judiciary Committee from 1981 to 1987, and from 1995 to 1999, the Armed
Services Committee.66 During his tenure as President pro tem during the 108th and
109th Congresses, Senator Ted Stevens chaired the Committee on Appropriations and
the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, respectively.
As Senator Byrd has remarked, “Because of his position as a senior member of
the party, and often the chairman of a key committee, the leadership regularly
consults the president pro tempore as to his views on policies and actions of the
Republicans as well as Democrats consider the President pro tempore an ex-
officio member of the party leadership, including the respective caucus and
conference, policy committees and steering committees. In these capacities, the
President pro tempore may work closely with the party floor leader.
63 Floyd M. Riddick, The United States Congress: Organization and Procedure
(Washington: National Capitol Publishing Co., 1949), p. 67.
65 Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to Congress, 3rd edition (Washington: Congressional
Quarterly, Inc., 1982), p. 393.
66 See S.Res. 12, adopted January 7, 1999; “Senate Resolution 12 — Making Majority Party
Appointments To Senate Committees for the 106th Congress,” Congressional Record, daily
edition, vol. 145, January 7, 1999, p. S45.
67 Sen. Robert C. Byrd, “The United States Senate: The President Pro Tempore and the Vice
President,” Congressional Record, vol. 126 (May 21, 1980), p. 11910.
Offices of the Deputy President Pro Tempore, the
Permanent Acting President Pro Tempore, and the
President Pro Tempore Emeritus
Office of the Deputy President Pro Tempore
On January 10, 1977, the Senate adopted S.Res. 17, a resolution creating an
office of Deputy President pro tempore of the Senate.68 The office was created to
honor Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, a Democratic Party stalwart, who had served as
both Vice President, and a presidential candidate in 1968. Humphrey served in the
Senate from 1949 to 1964 and from 1971 until his death in January 1978.
The resolution provided that “any Member of the Senate who has held the
Office of President of the United States or Vice President of the United States shall
be a Deputy President pro tempore.”69 Although the resolution did not specifically
enumerate the duties and responsibilities of the new office, the Deputy President pro
tempore was subsequently provided a staff,70 given a salary increase to the level of
the Majority Leader, and in the event of the absence of the Vice President and the
President pro tempore, authorized to preside over the Senate and sign bills as well as
resolutions without a specific authorization from the President pro tempore.71
Senator Humphrey served as Deputy President pro tempore from January 5,
1977 until his death on January 13, 1978.72 The position was next filled by Senator
George J. Mitchell, Democrat of Maine, who was appointed at the start of the 100th
Congress. The elected President pro tempore for the 100th Congress was Senator
John C. Stennis of Mississippi, the most senior Democratic Senator but in poor
health. Senate leaders were concerned that Senator Stennis’ poor health might
prevent him from fulfilling some of the responsibilities of the office, particularly the
President pro tempore’s principal responsibility for presiding over the Senate.
Senator Mitchell was appointed to assure that a presiding officer would be available
all times.73 Senator Mitchell served as Deputy President pro tempore from 1987 until
68 “Establishment of the Office of Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate,”
Congressional Record, vol. 123, January 10, 1977, p. 457.
70 Ibid. Staffing authority was enacted into law by P.L. 95-26, 91 Stat. 80.
71 P.L. 95-26, 91 Stat. 79.
72 Although the resolution establishing the Office of the Deputy President pro tempore
(S.Res. 27) was approved on January 11, 1977, the effective date was January 5, 1977.
“Senate Resolution 27 — Electing a Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate,”
Congressional Record, vol. 123, January 11, 1977, p. 756.
73 Interview with Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian, Senate Historical Office, January
he was elected Majority Leader for the 101st Congress on November 29, 1988.74 The
position has not been filled since that date.
Office of the Permanent Acting President Pro Tempore
In early 1963, the Senate began debate on what became the landmark Civil
Rights Act of 1964. The President pro tempore at the time was Carl T. Hayden of
Arizona, then 86 years old. Early in the debate, Majority Leader Michael J. (Mike)
Mansfield of Montana expressed concern about Hayden’s age and physical stamina
during what was likely to be a long and difficult debate. In February 1963, Mansfield
told a group of visitors that should a round-the-clock filibuster develop, as it
eventually did, he did not want to be responsible for the elderly Hayden’s demise.75
Subsequently, in a series of resolutions introduced by Mansfield beginning in June
Before his designation, Metcalf was one of a regular group of Senators serving in
rotation as presiding officer.
Mansfield chose Metcalf for several reasons. Metcalf was relatively young and
vigorous; he lived in an apartment across the street from the Senate and could be
called quickly to preside over late night sessions. As Mansfield’s junior colleague
from Montana, he was trustworthy and unlikely to rule against the majority floor
l eader. 77
On February 7, 1964, the Senate approved a resolution, S.Res. 296, which
authorized Senator Metcalf to be “Acting President pro tempore until otherwise
ordered by the Senate.” On March 31, more than two months before cloture on the
civil rights bill was finally invoked, but after a strenuous period of parliamentary
74 Senator Mitchell was recommended for the position of Deputy President pro tempore by
Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd. See Byrd, The Senate 1789-1989, vol. 2, p. 182. See also,
S.Res. 90, and S.Res 91, adopted January 28, 1987, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, “Designation of
A Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Designation of Senator George S.
Mitchell As Deputy President Pro Tempore of The Senate,” Congressional Record, vol. 133,
January 28, 1987, pp. 2167-2168.
75 Charles Whalen and Barbara Whalen, The Longest Debate; A Legislative History of the
76 See the following resolutions: S.Res. 155, adopted June 10, 1963, Senator Mike
Mansfield, “Continuation of Authority of Acting President Pro Tempore Beyond
Adjournment of Senate Today,” Congressional Record, vol. 109. June 10, 1963, p. 10444;
S.Res. 232, adopted December 9, 1963, Senator Mike Mansfield, “Designation of Senator
Metcalf As Acting President Pro Tempore During the Remainder of the Present Session of
the Congress,” Congressional Record, vol. 109, December 9, 1963, p. 23754; S.Res. 238,
adopted December 20, 1963, Senator Mike Mansfield, “To Continue Authority of Acting
President Pro Tempore Until Next Session of Congress,” Congressional Record, vol. 109,
December 20, 1963, pp. 25254-25255; and S.Res. 296, adopted February 7, 1964, Senator
Mike Mansfield, “Designation of Senator Metcalf As Acting President Pro Tempore,”
Congressional Record, vol. 110, February 7, 1964, p. 2401.
77 Interview with Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian, Senate Historical Office, July 28,
maneuvering, Senator Mansfield spoke on the floor of Senator Metcalf’s role as
The role of the Presiding Officer of the U.S. Senate has had its ups and downs
in the history of this legislative body. In recent years, and more particularly in
recent weeks, the Presiding Officer has assumed a position of renewed
importance. The man most responsible for this new role is my distinguished
colleague from Montana, Senator Metcalf.
Senator Metcalf, in his role as Acting President pro tempore, brings vigor, [and]
knowledge of the legislative process to a position which all too often is looked78
upon as a chore.
Senator Metcalf served as Permanent Acting President pro tempore and presided
frequently over the Senate in that capacity until his death in January 1978.79 The
office has not been filled since then.
Office of the President Pro Tempore Emeritus
In May 2001, Senator James Jeffords of Vermont changed his party affiliation
from Republican to Independent, and the Senate, until then evenly divided (and
operating under a series of formal and informal power sharing agreements), switched
to Democratic control. On June 6, the Senate elected Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of80
West Virginia, to be the President pro tempore. At the same time, Senator Strom
Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, who had served as President pro tempore81
since January 20, 2001, was elected President pro tempore Emeritus.
The practice of electing a Senator as President pro tempore Emeritus continued
in the108th Congress. Senator Byrd was elected to the office on January 15, 2003.82
Senator Ted Stevens currently serves as President pro tempore Emeritus, having been
elected to the position on January 4, 2007.83
78 “Senator Metcalf — A Strong Presiding Officer,” Congressional Record, vol. 110, March
79 Interview with Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian, Senate Historical Office, January
80 See S.Res. 100, adopted June 6, 2001. “Election of the Honorable Robert C. Byrd as
President Pro Tempore,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, p. S5843.
81 See S.Res. 103, adopted June 6, 2001. “Thanking and Electing Strom Thurmond
President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, p. S5844.
82 See S.Res. 21, adopted January 15, 2003. “Thanks to the Honorable Robert C. Byrd and
His Designation as President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional Record, daily edition,
vol. 149, p. S843.
83 See S.Res. 6, adopted January 4, 2007. “Expressing the Thanks of the Senate to Senator
Ted Stevens and His Designation as President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional
Record, daily edition, vol. 153, p. S6.
Table 1. Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate, 1789-2007
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
John LangdonPro-Admin/NH1st April 6, 1789
Richard Henry LeeAnti-AdminVA2nd April 18, 1792
John LangdonPro-Admin/NH2nd November 5, 1792
John LangdonNH2nd March 1, 1793
Ralph IzardPro-AdminSC3rd May 31, 1794
Henry TazewellAnti-Admin/VA3rd February 20, 1795
Henry TazewellVA4th December 7, 1795
Samuel LivermorePro-Admin/FNH4th May 6, 1796
William Bingham FPA4th February 16, 1797
William BradfordPro-Admin/FRI5th July 6, 1797
Jacob ReadFSC5th November 22, 1797
Theodore SedgwickFMA5th June 27, 1789
John LauranceFNY5th December 6, 1789
James RossPro-Admin/FPA5th March 1, 1799
Samuel LivermorePro-Admin/FNH6th December 22, 1799
Uriah TracyFCT6th May 14, 1800
John E. HowardFMD6th November 21, 1800
James HillhouseFCT6th February 28, 1801
Abraham BaldwinRGA7th December 7, 1801
Stephen R. BradleyAnti-Admin/VT7th December 14, 1802
Stephen R. BradleyVT7th February 25, 1803
Stephen R. BradleyVT7th March 2, 1803
John BrownAnti-AdminKY8th October 17, 1803
John BrownAnti-AdminKY8th January 23, 1804
Jesse FranklinR(DR)NC8th March 10, 1804
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
Joseph AndersonR(DR)TN8th January 15, 1805
Joseph AndersonR(DR) TN8th February 28, 1805
Joseph AndersonR(DR)TN8th March 2, 1805
Samuel SmithR(DR)/JMD9th December 2, 1805
Samuel SmithMD9th March 18, 1806
Samuel SmithMD9th March 2, 1807
Samuel SmithMD10th April 16, 1808
Stephen R. BradleyAnti-Admin/VT10th December 28, 1808
John MilledgeR(DR)GA10th January 30, 1809
Andrew GreggR(DR)PA11th June 26, 1809
John GaillardR(DR)/JSC11th February 28, 1810
John GaillardSC11th April 17, 1810
John PopeR(DR)KY11th February 23, 1811
William H. CrawfordR(DR)GA12th March 24, 1812
Joseph B. VarnumR(DR)MA13th December 6, 1813
John GaillardR(DR)/JSC13th April 18, 1814
John GaillardSC13th November 25, 1814b
John GaillardSC14th [no election]
John GaillardSC15th March 6, 1817
John GaillardSC15th March 31, 1918
James BarbourR(DR)VA15th February 15, 1819
James BarbourVA16th [no election]
John GaillardR(DR)/JSC16th January 25, 1820
John GaillardSC17th February 1, 1822
John GaillardSC17th February 19, 1823
John GaillardSC18th May 21, 1824
John GaillardSC19th March 9, 1825
Nathaniel MaconR(DR)/JNC19th May 20, 1826
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
Nathaniel MaconNC19th January 2, 1827
Nathaniel MaconNC19th March 2, 1827
Samuel SmithR(DR)/JMD20th May 15, 1828
Samuel SmithMD21st March 13, 1829
Samuel SmithMD21st May 29, 1830
Samuel SmithMD21st March 1, 1831
Littleton TazewellJR/JVA22nd July 9, 1832
Hugh L. WhiteJ/AJ/WTN22nd December 3, 1832
Hugh L. WhiteTN23rd [no election]
George PoindexterJ/AJMS23rd June 28, 1834
John TylerJ/AJVA23rd March 3, 1835
William R. KingR(DR)J/DAL24th July 1, 1836
William R. KingAL24th January 28, 1837
William R. KingAL25th March 7, 1837
William R. KingAL25th October 13, 1837
William R. KingAL25th July 2, 1838
William R. KingAL25th February 25, 1839
William R. KingAL26th July 3, 1840
William R. KingAL26th March 3, 1841
William R. KingAL27th March 4, 1841
Samuel Southard R(DR)WNJ27th March 11, 1841
Willie P. MangumJ/AJ/WNC27th May 31, 1842
Willie P. MangumNC28th [no election]
Ambrose H. SevierJ/DAR29th December 27, 1845 c
David R. AtchisonDMO29th August 8, 1846
David R. AtchisonDMO29th January 11, 1847
David R. AtchisonDMO29th March 3, 1847
David R. AtchisonDMO30th February 2, 1848
David R. AtchisonDMO30th June 1, 1848
David R. AtchisonDMO30th June 26, 1848
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
David R. AtchisonDMO30th July 29, 1848
David R. AtchisonDMO30th December 26, 1848
David R. AtchisonDMO30th March 2, 1849
David R. AtchisonDMO31st March 5, 1849
David R. AtchisonDMO31st March 16, 1849
William R. KingR(DR)J/DAL31st May 6, 1850
William R. KingAL31st July 11, 1850
William R. KingAL32nd [no election]
David R. AtchisonDMO32nd December 20, 1852
David R. AtchisonDMO33rd March 4, 1853
Lewis CassDMI33rd December 4, 1854
Jesse D. BrightDIN33rd December 5, 1854
Jesse D. BrightDIN34th June 11, 1856
Charles E. StuartDMI34th June 9, 1856
James M. MasonDVA34th January 6, 1857
James M. MasonDVA35th March 4, 1857
Thomas J. RuskDTX35th March 14, 1857
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL35th December 7, 1857
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL35th March 29, 1858
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL35th June 14, 1858
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL35th January 25, 1858
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL36th March 9, 1859
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL36th December 19, 1859
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL36th February 20, 1860
Jesse D. BrightDIN36th June 12, 1860
Benjamin FitzpatrickDAL36th June 26, 1860
Solomon FootW/OP/RVT36th February 16, 1861
Solomon FootVT37th March 23, 1861
Solomon FootVT37th July 18, 1861
Solomon FootVT37th January 15, 1862
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
Solomon FootVT37th March 31, 1862
Solomon Foot VT 37thJune 19, 1862
Solomon FootVT37th February 18, 1863
Solomon FootVT38th March 4, 1863
Solomon FootVT38th December 18, 1863
Solomon FootVT38th February 23, 1864
Solomon FootVT38th April 11, 1864
Daniel ClarkRNH38th April 26, 1864
Daniel ClarkRNH38th February 9, 1865
Lafayette S. FosterOP/RCT39th March 7, 1865
Benjamin F. WadeW/OP/ROH39th March 2, 1867
Benjamin F. WadeOH40th [no election]
Henry B. AnthonyRRI41st March 23, 1869
Henry B. AnthonyRRI41st April 9, 1869
Henry B. AnthonyRRI41st May 28, 1870
Henry B. AnthonyRRI41st July 1, 1870
Henry B. AnthonyRRI41st July 14, 1870
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd March 10, 1871
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd April 17, 1871
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd May 23, 1871
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd December 21, 1871
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd February 23, 1872
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd June 8, 1872
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd December 4, 1872
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd December 13, 1872
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd December 20, 1872
Henry B. AnthonyRRI42nd January 24, 1873
Matthew H. CarpenterRWI43rd March 12, 1873
Matthew H. CarpenterRWI43rd March 26, 1873
Matthew H. CarpenterRWI43rd December 11, 1873
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
Matthew H. CarpenterRWI43rd December 23, 1874
Henry B. AnthonyRRI43rd January 25, 1875
Henry B. AnthonyRRI43rd February 15, 1875
Thomas W. FerryRMI44th March 9, 1875
Thomas W. FerryRMI44th March 19, 1875
Thomas W. FerryRMI44th December 20, 1875
Thomas W. FerryRMI45th March 5, 1877
Thomas W. FerryRMI45th February 26, 1878
Thomas W. FerryRMI45th April 17, 1878
Thomas W. FerryRMI45th March 3, 1879
Allen G. ThurmanDOH46th April 15, 1879
Allen G. ThurmanDOH46th April 7, 1880
Allen G. ThurmanDOH46th May 6, 1880
Thomas F. Bayard, Sr.DDE47th October 10, 1881
David DavisIIL47th October 13, 1881
George F. EdmundsRVT47th March 3, 1883
George F. EdmundsRVT48th January 14, 1884
John ShermanROH49th December 7, 1885
John J. IngallsRKS49th February 25, 1887
John J. IngallsRKS50th [no election]
John J. IngallsRKS51st March 7, 1889
John J. IngallsRKS51st April 2, 1889
John J. IngallsRKS51st February 28, 1890
John J. IngallsRKS51st April 3, 1890 d
Charles F. MandersonRNE51st March 2, 1891
Charles F. MandersonRNE52nd[no election]
Charles F. MandersonRNE53rd[no election]
Isham G. HarrisDTN53rd March 22, 1893
Matt W. RansomDNC53rd January 7, 1895
Isham G. HarrisDTN53rd January 10, 1895
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
William P. FryeRME54thFebruary 7, 1896
William P. FryeRME55th[no election]
William P. FryeRME56th[no election]
William P. FryeRME57thMarch 7, 1901
William P. FryeRME58th[no election]
William P. FryeRME59th[no election]
William P. FryeRME60thDecember 5, 1907
William P. FryeRME61st[no election]
William P. FryeRME62nd[no election]
Charles CurtisRKS62nd December 4, 1911
Augustus O. BaconDGA62nd January 15, 1912
Jacob H. GallingerRNH62nd February 12, 1912
Henry Cabot LodgeRMA62nd March 25, 1912
Frank B. BrandegeeRCT62nd May 25, 1912
James P. ClarkeDAR63rdMarch 13, 1913
James P. ClarkeDAR64thDecember 6, 1915
Willard Saulsbury, Jr.DDE64th December 14, 1916
Willard Saulsbury, Jr.DDE65th[no election]
Albert B. CumminsRIA66thMay 19, 1919
Albert B. CumminsRIA67thMarch 7, 1921
Albert B. CumminsRIA68th[no election]
Albert B. CumminsRIA69th[no election]
George H. MosesRNH69th March 6, 1925
George H. MosesRNH70thDecember 15, 1927
George H. MosesRNH71st[no election]
George H. MosesRNH72nd[no election]
Key PittmanDNV73rdMarch 9, 1933
Key PittmanDNV74thJanuary 7, 1935
Key PittmanDNV75th[no election]
Key PittmanDNV76th[no election]
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
William H. KingDUT76th November 19, 1940
Pat HarrisonDMS77thJanuary 6, 1941
Carter GlassDVA77th July 10, 1941
Carter GlassDVA78thJanuary 5, 1943
Kenneth D. McKellarDTN79thJanuary 6, 1945
Arthur VandenbergRMI80thJanuary 4, 1947
Kenneth D. McKellarDTN81stJanuary 3, 1949
Kenneth D. McKellarDTN82nd[no election]
Styles BridgesRNH83rdJanuary 3, 1953
Walter F. GeorgeDGA84thJanuary 5, 1955
Carl T. HaydenDAZ85thJanuary 3, 1957
Carl T. HaydenDAZ86th[no election]
Carl T. HaydenDAZ87th[no election]
Carl T. HaydenDAZ88th[no election]
Carl T. HaydenDAZ89th[no election]
Carl T. HaydenDAZ90th[no election]
Richard B. Russell, Jr.DGA91stJanuary 3, 1969
Richard B. Russell, Jr.DGA92nd[no election]
Allen J. EllenderDLA92nd January 22, 1971
James O. EastlandDMS92nd July 28, 1972
James O. EastlandDMS93rd[no election]
James O. EastlandDMS94th[no election]
James O. EastlandDMS95th[no election]
Warren G. MagnusonDWA96thJanuary 15, 1979
Milton R. YoungRND96th December 4, 1980e
Strom ThurmondID/D/RSC97thJanuary 5, 1981
Strom ThurmondSC98th[no election]
Strom ThurmondSC99th[no election]
John C. StennisDMS100thJanuary 6, 1987
Robert C. ByrdDWV101stJanuary 3, 1989
NameParty aStateCongressDate Elected
Robert C. ByrdDWV102nd[no election]
Robert C. ByrdDWV103rd[no election]
Strom ThurmondRSC104thJanuary 4, 1995
Strom ThurmondRSC105th[no election]
Strom ThurmondRSC106th[no election]
Robert C. ByrdDWV107thJanuary 3, 2001 -
January 20, 2001
Strom ThurmondRSC107thJanuary 20, 2001-
June 6, 2001
Robert C. ByrdDWV107thJune 6, 2001-
January 7, 2003
Ted StevensRAK108thJanuary 7, 2003
Ted StevensRAK109th [no election]
Robert C. ByrdDWV110th January 4, 2007
Source: The principal source for this table is Robert C. Byrd, The Senate: Its History and Practice,thst
4 vols., 100 Cong., 1 sess., S. Doc. 100-20 (Washington: GPO, 1988-1994), vol. 4, pp. 647-653.
Notes: Until 1890, the Senate elected a President pro tempore whenever the Vice President was not
in attendance, whether for a day, or permanently, as in the case of the Vice President’s death or
resignation. When the Vice President returned, the President pro tempore lost his place. Then, when
the Vice President was again absent, the Senate again elected a President pro tempore, in many cases
the same Senator who had been chosen before. By the standing order agreed to on March 12, 1890,
the Senate declared that the President pro tempore shall hold the office during “the pleasure of the
Senate and until another is elected, and shall execute the duties thereof during all future absences of
the Vice President until the Senate does otherwise order.”
a. A key to party abbreviations can be found in the Appendix.
b. Senator John Gaillard was elected after the death of Vice President Elbridge Gerry and continuedth
to serve throughout the 14 Congress, as there was no Vice President.
c. There was no actual election. Senator Ambrose H. Sevier was “permitted to occupy the chair for
the day.” Gamm and Smith differ with respect to Sevier’s service. See Gamm and Smith, Last
Among Equals, “Table 1: Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate,” p. 13.
d. As noted above, in March 1890, the Senate adopted a resolution stating that Presidents pro tempore
would hold office continuously until the election of another President pro tempore, rather than
being elected only for the period in which the Vice President was absent. That system has
continued to the present.
e. Senator Milton R. Young was elected to serve but the single day of December 4, 1980.
Table 2. Deputy Presidents Pro Tempore
of the Senate, 1977-2007
Deputy PresidentParty-StateCongress Dates
Hubert H. Humphrey aD-MN95thJanuary 5, 1977-
January 13, 1978
George J. Mitchell bD-ME100th January 28, 1987-c
November 29, 1988
a. Pursuant to S.Res. 17, agreed to January 10, 1977, the Senate established (effective January 5,
1977) the post of Deputy President pro tempore of the Senate to be held by “any Member of the
Senate who has held the Office of President of the United States or Vice President of the United
States.” Senator Humphrey held this position until his death on January 13, 1978. See Remarks
Congressional Record, January 10, 1977, vol. 123, p.457.
b. On January 28, 1987, the Senate agreed to S.Res. 90, authorizing the Senate to designate a Senatorth
to serve as Deputy President pro tempore during the 100 Congress, in addition to Senators whoth
hold such office under the authority of S.Res. 17, 95 Congress. Accordingly, on the same date
the Senate agreed to S.Res. 91, designating Senator George J. Mitchell Deputy President pro
tempore. See Remarks, Congressional Record, January, vol. 133, p. 2149.
c. On November 29, 1988, by secret vote of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Senator Mitchell wasst
elected Majority Leader for the 101 Congress. See “Democrats Pick Mitchell as Majoritythnd
Leader, Congressional Quarterly Almanac; 100 Congress, 2 Session, 1988, Washington,
Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1989, pp. 30-34.
Table 3. Permanent Acting President Pro Tempore
of the Senate, 1964-2007
Congress Name State El ected
88th-95thLee W. Metcalf aMontanaFebruary 7, 1964
Notes: This office was initially established in 1963 upon the adoption of S.Res. 232 and S.Res. 238
making Senator Metcalf Acting President pro tempore from December 9, 1963, until the meeting ofth
the second regular session of the 88 Congress. When the position of Vice President became vacant
upon the death of President John F. Kennedy, the added constitutional responsibilities imposed on
then-President pro tempore Carl Hayden moved the Senate to agree on February 7, 1964 to S.Res. 296,
authorizing Senator Metcalf “to perform the duties of the Chair as Acting President Pro Tempore until
otherwise ordered by the Senate.” Senator Metcalf continued to hold the post throughout his
remaining 14 years in the Senate. See Remarks, Congressional Record, February 7, 1964, vol. 110,
a. Died January 12, 1978.
Table 4. Presidents Pro Tempore Emeritus
of the Senate, 2001-2007
Congress Name State El ected
107thStrom ThurmondSCJune 6, 2001January 7, 2003
a. Elected pursuant to S.Res. 103, adopted June 6, 2001. See “Thanking and Electing Strom
Thurmond President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147,
b. Elected pursuant to S.Res. 21, adopted January 15, 2003. See “Thanks to the Honorable Robert
C. Byrd and His Designation as President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional Record, daily
edition, vol. 149, p.S843.
c. Elected pursuant to S.Res. 6, adopted January 4, 2007. See “Expressing the Thanks of the Senate
to Senator Ted Stevens and Designation as President Pro Tempore Emeritus,” Congressional
Record, daily edition, vol.153, p.S6.
For Additional Reading
Berdahl, Clarence. “Some Notes on Party Membership in Congress.” American
Political Science Review, vol. 43 (April 1949: 309-332; June 1949: 492-508;
and August 1949: 721-734).
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1996. Washington: CQ
Staff Directories Inc., 1997.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to the Present.
Available online at [http://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch.asp].
Byrd, Robert C. The Senate, 1789-1989; Its History and Practice, 4 vols., 100th
Congress, 1st session. S.Doc. 100-20, Washington: GPO, 1988-1994.
Gamm, Gerald, and Steven S. Smith. “Last Among Equals: The Senate’s Presiding
Officer.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political
Science Association in Boston, MA, September 3-6, 1998.
“The Great Senate Deadlock: 1881.” Senate History, no. 9, July 1984: 1, 9-10. An
updated version of this article may be found at [http://www.senate.gov/
artandhistory/ history/minute/A_ Dramatic_Tie-Breaker.htm] .
Haynes, George H. “The Senate’s President Pro Tempore,” The Senate of the United
States: Its History and Practice. New York: Russell & Russell, 1960, pp. 249-
Journal of the Senate of the United States, 1789-present, various publishers.
Senate Manual, a document compiled by the Senate Committee on Rules and
Administration. The most recent edition is S.Doc. 107-1, 107th Congress, 1st
session. Washington: GPO, 2002.
Tiefer, Charles. “Vice President and President Pro Tempore.” In Congressional
Practice and Procedure: A Reference, Research, and Legislative Guide. New
York: Greenwood Press, 1989, pp. 490-495.
U.S. Congress. Senate. “President Pro Tempore.” Riddick’s Senate Procedure:
Precedents and Practices. Edited by Floyd M. Riddick, and Alan S. Frumin.
U.S. Congress. Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. Election of President
Pro Tempore of the Senate. 62nd Congress, 1st session. S.Rept. 62-30.
Washington: GPO, 1911.
U.S. Congress. Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. President of the
Senate Pro Tempore; Proceedings in the United States Senate from April 6,
1789, to December 5, 1911, Relating to the Election, Powers, Duties, and
Tenure in Office of the President of the Senate Pro Tempore. Committee print.
CRS Report RL33313. Congressional Commissions, Committees, Boards, and
Groups: Appointment Authority and Membership, by Matthew Eric Glassman.
CRS Report RL30567. Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2007, by
CRS Report RL31761. Presidential Succession: An Overview with Analysis of
Legislation Proposed in the 108th Congress, by Thomas H. Neale.
Appendix. Political Party Abbreviations
Adams-Clay FAdams-Clay Federalist
Adams-Clay RAdams-Clay Republican
N/AParty Unknown or No Party
Republican, or Democratic
Source: The table is derived from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989: Itsthst
History and Practice, 4 vols., 1988-1994, 100 Cong., 1 sess., S.Doc. 100-20,
(Washington: GPO, 1993), vol 4, p. xiii.
a. Although the Biographical Directory of the American Congress identifies the
party affiliation of certain Representatives in early Congresses as Republicans,
the designation “Democratic Republican” is more familiar to readers. This
designation, R(DR), should not be confused with the contemporary
Republican Party which did not emerge until the 1850s.