Durbin Re-Elected to Senate Assistant Majority Leader Post

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was today re-elected to the Senate's second highest ranking leadership post -- Assistant Majority Leader, also known as Majority Whip. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was elected as Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was elected as Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference and Patty Murray (D-WA) was elected Democratic Conference Secretary in today’s balloting.


“I am honored that my Senate colleagues have again entrusted me with this responsibility,” Durbin said. “Our party is a diverse one, as is my home state of Illinois. Those lessons I have learned representing my state will help me to serve as Assistant Leader of this extraordinary Caucus.”


Durbin, 65, will be the lead person in the day-to-day action on the Senate floor. The modern day version of the whip, besides being the second ranking party leader in the Senate, is responsible for counting votes and monitoring legislation on the Senate floor.


Only four other Illinoisans have served as leaders for their parties in the Senate. Shelby Moore Cullom served as Republican Conference Chairman from 1911-1913; J. Hamilton Lewis became the first Democratic Whip of the Senate in 1913, and was again elected Whip in 1931; Scott Wike Lucas served as Democratic Whip from 1947 to 1949 and Majority Leader from 1949 to 1951; and Everett McKinley Dirksen was elected Republican Whip in 1957 and Minority Leader in 1959, a position he held for ten years.


Neither the position of whip nor majority leader is mentioned in the United States Constitution. The term "whip" comes from "whipper-in," a fox-hunting term for the person charged with keeping dogs from straying during a chase. According to the Senate historian’s office, it was not until the latter part of the 19th century that senators of each political party “organized and assembled separately for the purpose of electing certain members from among their own to act as agents in helping to run the legislative machine.” And it was not until the 20th century that the posts of majority and minority leaders and whips became official political positions.


Durbin said he believes that his role will continue to benefit his home state. “Illinois will always be at the table for any discussion of legislation involving the leadership,” Durbin noted.


Durbin said he believes that with House of Representative under Republican control and the Senate in the hands of the Democratic Party, Congress will continue to be the most important forum in America to debate the great issues and to address the challenges facing our country.


“I look forward to working with members of both parties and the President to improve the quality of life for the middle class and for all Americans,” he said. “We need to remember why the American people have elected us. They want a strong and prosperous America, but they want economic fairness as well and they want us to empower families and individuals to reach their maximum potential. That's our challenge; that's our responsibility.”