Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate: Fact Sheet on Legislative and Administrative Duties
Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the
Senate: Legislative and Administrative Duties
Jacob R. Straus
Analyst on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate is an officer elected by the
Senate at the beginning of each Congress. The Sergeant at Arms has protection, security,
decorum, protocol, and administrative responsibilities that are derived from law, Senate
rules, and other sources. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration oversees
the Sergeant at Arms and issues policies and regulations governing his duties and
responsibilities. The position of Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper began in the First
Congress when James Mathers became the first elected officer of the Senate.1
History of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper
The first elected officer of the Senate was James Mathers, who was elected
Doorkeeper on April 6, 1789.2 On February 5, 1798, Mathers’s duties were expanded
when he was “invested with the authority of Sergeant-at-Arms, to hold said office during
the pleasure of the Senate, whose duty it shall be to execute the commands of the Senate,
from time to time, and all such process as shall be directed to him by the President of the
Senate.”3 Initially, the Senate met in closed-door sessions and it was the responsibility of
the Doorkeeper to ensure that a quorum of Senators was present and that other interested
parties were kept out of the chamber. This officer is hereafter referred to as Sergeant at
Today, the Sergeant at Arms performs the original duties of the doorkeeper and is
responsible for the protection of the Senate wing of the Capitol, the Senate office
1 This report builds on a 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 Senate debate, Annals of the Congress of the United States, vol. 7 (Feb. 5, 1798), pp. 497-498.
buildings,4 and the Senate chamber.5 In addition, the Sergeant at Arms serves as the
Senate’s chief protocol officer and has administrative responsibility for Senate offices and
other Senate services, including the Senate beauty and barber shops, the Senate garage,
the Senate post office, the Senate recording studio, and the Senate photographic studio.
Origins of Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper have
developed over time through several sources.6 These sources include statutes, Senate rules
and orders, and customs and precedents. Statues, 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;7
!the United States Statutes at Large, which is the collection of all laws
and concurrent resolutions enacted during each session of Congress,
published in the order they were enacted into law;8
!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
law applicable to the Senate;9 and
!custom and precedent.10
4 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). (Hereafter, Senate
Manual). Rules for the Regulation of the Senate Wing of the United States Capitol and Senate
Office Building, Rule I (§ 120).
5 U.S. Congress, Senate, Standing Rules of the Senate, 110th Cong., 1st sess., Sept. 14, 2007,
S.Doc 110-9 (Washington: GPO, 2007). Rule XXIII specifies those individuals who may be
admitted to the Senate floor when the Senate is in session.
6 U.S. Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Senate Sergeant at Arms: Authorities,
Duties, and Administration of Office, created at the request of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, by
Jacob R. Straus (Jan. 16, 2008), 117 pp. Copies are available only from the Senate Sergeant at
7 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.
8 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.
9 Senate Manual. The Senate Manual has not been published since the 107th 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], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
10 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,
Additionally, many of the duties of the Sergeant at Arms 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 Sergeant at Arms.
Areas of Responsibility
The duties and responsibilities of Sergeant at Arms can be divided into three broad
categories: law enforcement and security, protocol, and administration. Each category
reflects the basic responsibility to ensure safe and effective operation of the Senate.
Law Enforcement and Security. As the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer,
the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for security in the Senate wing of the Capitol,11 the12
Senate office buildings, adjacent grounds, and for the security of Senators. At the request
of a majority of Senators present on the floor, the Sergeant at Arms also has the authority13
to compel the attendance of absent Senators. The Sergeant at Arms enforces rules made
by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and serves as a member of the
Capitol Police Board, which is authorized by law to design, install, and maintain security
systems for the Capitol and its grounds.14
Together with the Secretary of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms develops and
maintains a continuity-of-operations plan that enables the Senate to conduct business and
access data at offsite locations, and oversees the office of security and emergency15
preparedness, which serves as the Senate’s emergency planning and response team.
Protocol. As the chief of protocol of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms performs
ceremonial functions that exist through custom and precedent. In carrying out these
duties, the Sergeant at Arms greets and escorts the U.S. President, heads of states, and
other official Senate guests while attending functions in the Capitol; leads Senators from
the Senate side of the Capitol to the House chamber for joint sessions of Congress, to their
places on the inaugural platform, and to any other place the Senate travels as a body; and
11 Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule XXII; Rule XIX; and Rule XXXIII. Additional
responsibility can be found in the Senate Manual, Rules and Regulations of the Senate Wing of
the United States Capitol and Senate Office Buildings, Rule III, Rule IV, Rule VI, and Rule X.
12 The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has directed that the Rules of the
Regulation of the Senate Wing of the Capitol extend to the Senate Office Buildings under their
authority from the Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule XXV (1)(n).
13 Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule VI.
14 2 U.S.C. § 1901, note. The Sergeant at Arms serves on the Capitol Police Board with the
House Sergeant at Arms, the Architect of the Capitol, and the chief of the United States Capitol
Police, who serves as an ex-officio member.
15 Testimonies of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate William H. Pickle and former Sergeant at
Arms of the Senate Alfonso Lenhardt, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Rules and
Administration, Oversight of the Sergeant at Arms, Library of Congress, and Congressionalthst
Research Service, 108 Cong., 1 sess., Apr. 8, 2003, hearings at
[http://rules.senate.gov/hearings/2003/ 040803SAA.htm], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
assists in arrangements for inaugurations and the planning of funerals of Senators who die
while in office. By custom, the Sergeant at Arms is custodian of the Senate gavel.16
The Sergeant at Arms is responsible for protocol surrounding the death of a Senator.
These responsibilities include the enforcement of a provision in the Standing Orders of
the Senate which prohibits flowers in the Senate chamber unless an order is given waiving
the prohibition for a display of flowers on the desk of a deceased Senator on the day of
eulogies.17 The Sergeant at Arms also ascertains that the construction of a monument to
a deceased Senator, who is to be buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington,
D.C., conforms to specific construction materials and procedures.18
Administration. As an administrative officer of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms
is responsible for specified services to Senators’ offices, including the following:
!acquiring home state office space, including mobile office space;19
!purchasing office equipment and maintaining records of equipment use;20
!operating computer support services;
!managing telecommunications services;21
!establishing prices of items available for use in Senate offices; and
!administering orientation seminars for Senators, Senate officials, or
members of the staffs of Senators or Senate officials and other similar
The administrative duties of the Sergeant at Arms also include services to the Senate
as a whole, including the following:
!Senate service department, which is responsible for production of
newsletters and other Senate mailings, purchase and maintenance of
equipment, storage of Senate publications, and micrographics services;
!Senate computer center, which oversees Senate computer operations;
!Senate post office, and recording and photographic studios;
!Senate barber and beauty shops;
!custodial services, office furnishings and equipment, and automobiles;
!Senate garage and other parking facilities;
!appointment desk to greet visitors on official business;
16 Silvio A. Bedini, “The Mace and the Gavel,” Transactions of the American Philosophical
Society, vol. 87, part 4 (1997), pp. 53-70. The Senate gavel is used to call for the
commencement, adjournment, and for order in the Senate. For more information on the Senate
gavel see U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate Art & History, “Senate Gavel” [http://www.senate.gov/
artandhistory/art/artifact/Other_71_00002.htm], accessed Aug. 19, 2008.
17 Senate Manual, Standing Orders of the Senate, § 64.
18 2 U.S.C. § 51.
19 2 U.S.C. § 59.
20 2 U.S.C. § 59b(a)-(c).
21 2 U.S.C. § 58a; 2 U.S.C. § 58a-2; and 2 U.S.C. § 52a-3.
22 2 U.S.C. § 69a.
!Senate health promotion office;
!Senate placement office;
!Senate telecommunications, the Capitol telephone exchange, and the
Senate telephone directory;
!Capitol Guide Service and other visitor services including assistance in
Braille, sign language interpretation, and telecommunications devices for
!Senate page program and assignment of duties to messengers;
!oversight of the doorkeepers;
!issuance of identification cards to Senate employees;
!disposal of surplus equipment; and
!education and training programs for Senate staff as needed.
See [http://www.senate.gov/reference/office/sergeant_at_arms.htm] for further
information on the history, structure, and operation of the Senate Sergeant at Arms office.
Table 1. Sergeants at Arms and Doorkeepers of the Senate
Congress (in whichNameTerm BeganTerm Concluded
1st (1789-1791)James MathersApril 6, 1789September 2, 1811 a
12th (1811-1813)Montjoy BaylyNovember 6, 1811December 9, 1833
23rd (1833-1835)John ShackfordDecember 9, 18331837 b
25th (1837-1839)Stephen HaightSeptember 4, 1837June 7, 1841
27th (1841-1843)Edward DyerJune 7, 1841December 9, 1845
29th (1845-1847)Robert BealeDecember 9, 1845March 17, 1853
33rd (1853-1855)Dunning R. McNairMarch 17, 1853July 6, 1861
37th (1861-1863)George T. BrownJuly 6, 1861March 22, 1869
41st (1869-1871)John R. FrenchMarch 22, 1869March 24, 1879
46th (1879-1881)Richard J. BrightMarch 24, 1879December 18, 1883
48th (1883-1885)William P. CanadayDecember 18, 1883June 30, 1890
51st (1889-1891)Edward K. ValentineJune 30, 1890August 7, 1893
53rd (1893-1895)Richard J. BrightAugust 8, 1893February 1, 1900
56th (1899-1901)Daniel M. RansdellFebruary 1, 1900August 26, 1912
62nd (1911-1913)E. Livingston CorneliusDecember 10, 1912March 4, 1913
63rd (1913-1915)Charles P. HigginsMarch 13, 1913March 3, 1919
66th (1919-1921)David S. BarryMay 19, 1919February 7, 1933
73rd (1933-1935)Chesley W. JurneyMarch 9, 1933January 31, 1943
78th (1943-1945)Wall DoxeyFebruary 1, 1943January 3, 1947
Congress (in whichNameTerm BeganTerm Concluded
80th (1947-1949)Edward F. McGinnisJanuary 4, 1947January 2, 1949
81st (1949-1951)Joseph C. DukeJanuary 3, 1949January 2, 1953
83rd (1953-1955)Forest A. HarnessJanuary 3, 1953January 4, 1955
84th (1955-1957)Joseph C. DukeJanuary 5, 1955December 30, 1965
89th (1965-1967)Robert G. DunphyJanuary 14, 1966June 30, 1972
92nd (1971-1973)William H. WannallJuly 1, 1972December 17, 1975
94th (1975-1977)Frank “Nordy” HoffmanDecember 18, 1975January 4, 1981
97th (1981-1983)Howard S. LiebengoodJanuary 5, 1981September 12, 1983
98th (1983-1985)Larry E. SmithSeptember 13, 1983June 2, 1985
99th (1985-1987)Ernest E. GarciaJune 3, 1985 January 5, 1987
100th (1987-1989)Henry K. GiugniJanuary 6, 1987December 31, 1990
102nd (1991-1993)Martha S. Pope cJanuary 3, 1991April 14, 1994
103rd (1993-1995)Robert Laurent BenoitApril 15, 1994January 3, 1995
104th (1995-1997)Howard O. Greene, Jr. January 4, 1995September 6, 1996
Gregory S. CaseySeptember 6, 1996November 9, 1998
105th (1997-1999)James W. ZiglarNovember 9, 1998September 3, 2001
107th (2001-2003)Alfonso E. LenhardtSeptember 4, 2001March 16, 2003
108th (2003-2005)William H. PickleMarch 17, 2003January 4, 2007
110th (2007-2009)Terrance GainerJanuary 4, 2007Present
Source: Senate Historical Office, [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/
sergeant_at_arms.htm], accessed Aug. 12, 2008.
a. James Mathers was originally elected to be Senate Doorkeeper, making him the first Senate officer. On
February 5, 1798, the Senate expanded his duties to include those of Sergeant at Arms.
b. John Shackford’s exact date of death is unknown.
c. Martha S. Pope was the first woman to serve as Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate.