President of the U.S. Senate

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The President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate, also known as the president pro tem, is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate.[1]

The United States Constitution states that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate, despite not being a senator, and that the Senate must choose a president pro tempore.[1] The president pro tempore, or "president for a time," is elected by the Senate and is, by custom, the senior member of the majority party.[2][3]

The Constitution provides for a president pro tempore to preside over the Senate in the absence of the vice president. Except for the years from 1886 to 1947, the president pro tempore has also been included in the presidential line of succession.[1]

Current officeholder

The current officeholder is Patrick Leahy (D), from Vermont.[4]

Leahy succeeded prior president pro tempore Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii after his death in December 2012.[5]


The office was established in 1789 by Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

United States Constitution, Article I Section 3:

"The Senate shall chuse 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."

Line of succession

Following passage of the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the president pro tempore was next in line after the vice president, followed by the speaker of the House of Representatives. In 1886 a new law removed the president pro tempore and the speaker from the line of succession, substituting cabinet officers.

A 1947 law changed the order of succession to place the Speaker of the House in line after the vice president, followed by the president pro tempore, and then the secretary of state and other cabinet officers in order of their departments' creation. This is currently the line of succession used.[1]


Before 1890, the Senate elected a president pro tempore on a temporary basis, chosen for their personal characteristics, popularity, and reliability, and only serving for the period when the vice president would be absent.[1] Since 1890, it has been traditional for the Senate to elect the senior member of the majority party as president pro tempore.[1]

Since 1890, with a single exception, each president pro tempore has served until he retired, died, or the party lost its majority status.[1]

The president pro tempore designates other senators to preside in his absence, generally members of the majority party.[1]


Although the position is in some ways equivalent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the powers of the president pro tempore are far more limited. In the Senate, most power rests with party leaders and individual senators, but as the chamber's presiding officer, the president pro tempore is authorized to perform certain duties in the absence of the vice president, including ruling on points of order.[3]

Additional duties include:[1]

  • Appointment of various congressional officers, certain commissions, advisory boards, and committees
  • Joint supervision of the congressional page school
  • Serving as the designated legal recipient of various reports to the Senate, including War Powers Act reports under which he or she, jointly with the speaker, may have the president call Congress back into session
  • An ex officio member of various boards and commissions
  • With the secretary and sergeant at arms, the president pro tempore maintains order in Senate portions of the Capitol and Senate buildings.

Unlike the vice president, the president pro tempore is an elected member of the Senate, able to speak and vote on any issue.[1]

See also

External links