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Legislative Leaders in Washington, D.C.

Two of the most prominent legislators in Washington, D.C., are the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. The Senate president’s seat is filled by the nation’s Vice President. The Speaker of the House is a representative within the House’s majority party who is elected by other representatives on the first day of a new Congress.

Both figures preside over the debates and votes within each chamber and can serve as a tie-breaking vote should it become necessary. Along the chain of succession, the Speaker of the House is third in line behind the President and Vice President.

Other bigwigs in the Senate include:

  • President Pro Tempore: Elected by other senators, this person — who is normally the longest-serving senator from the majority party — presides over sessions when the Vice President is absent.

  • Senate Majority Leader: Elected by other senators, this member of the majority party sets the general positions of the party related to legislation being drafted and debated.

  • Assistant Majority Leader: Known as the Majority Whip, this senator is responsible for rounding up votes.

  • Senate Minority Leader: Elected by other senators, this member of the minority party sets the general positions of the party related to legislation being drafted and debated.

  • Assistant Minority Leader: Known as the Minority Whip, this senator is responsible for rounding up votes.

  • Secretary of the Democratic Conference: This Democratic senator is responsible for recording minutes during party meetings or caucuses.

  • Secretary of the Republican Conference: This Republican senator is responsible for recording minutes during party meetings or caucuses.

In the House, the other power positions are:

  • House Majority Leader: This representative is responsible for daily management of the House floor, although his or her power depends upon the Speaker.

  • House Minority Leader: This leader of the minority party in the House is waiting for his or her turn to become Speaker.

  • House Majority Whip: This person is responsible for managing the legislation the majority party has proposed and for corralling the majority party members.

  • House Minority Whip: This person is responsible for managing the legislation the minority party has proposed and for keeping the members of that party in line.

Whichever political party holds a majority among the members of either chamber has a great deal of power, from choosing majority leaders who can help set a congressional agenda, to holding the senior positions within congressional committees. The majority party can wield a great deal of influence over the business of Congress, most visibly in the passage or rejection of bills whose contents cause members to vote along party lines.

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