The Democratic Whip
In addition to his other duties, Senator Durbin serves as the Democratic Whip the second-highest ranking position in the Senate for the Democratic Caucus. Senator Durbin has been elected to this leadership post by his Democratic colleagues every two years since 2005. He is only the fifth Illinois Senator in history to serve as a Senate leader, and the fourth as whip.
What’s the whip story?
The term whip comes from a fox-hunting expression – “whipper-in” – referring to the member of the hunting team responsible for keeping the dogs from straying from the team during a chase. Democrat James Hamilton Lewis (of Illinois) became the first party whip in 1913, and the Republicans established their own whip position two year later.
Whips fulfill many roles, chief among them – consulting with the other party leaders and caucus on strategy and policy, counting votes, and helping with Floor debate. If you tune in to C-SPAN, you can often see Senator Durbin engaging his colleagues in discussion during Floor consideration and during roll call votes.
Richard J. Durbin (2005-present)
Everett M. Dirksen (1957-59, then became the Republican Floor Leader)
Scott W. Lucas (1947-49)
Hamilton J. Lewis (1913-19, 1933-39)
Want more details?
The Senate historian tells of May 28, 1913, the day the Senate whip position was first created: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Senators_Require_A_Whip.htm.