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President pro tempore

From dKosopedia

Leaders - President pro tempore
United States Senate
Current Majority Leader Harry Reid
Current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Current Senate President Dick Cheney
Current Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd

Latin term which literally means, "President for a time."

Although the term may be used in many contexts, it most frequently refers to the President pro tempore of the Senate, a Senator elected to preside over the U.S. Senate in the absence of the Vice President, the latter being named in the Constitution as President of the Senate. In practice, the Vice President is nearly always absent except in the case of close votes (in which case he may be called upon to break a tie) or major events (joint sessions of Congress, State of the Union speeches, etc.), meaning the duties of presiding over the Senate nearly always fall to the President pro tempore. Even then, however, the actual day-to-day job is usually performed by an acting President pro tempore who is chosen on a daily basis by the President pro tempore, and who, in turn, usually turns the chair over to other, more junior, members of the Senate.

Although nominally serving a similar role as the Speaker of the House, and third in line of Presidential succession, the President pro tempore's influence is much smaller than the Speaker's. True power in the Senate is wielded by the Senate Majority Leader.

The current President pro tempore of the Senate is Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia). He replaced Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who held the office from January 3, 2003 to January 3, 2007.

The salary of the President pro tempore for 2006 is $183,500, equal to that of the Majority Leader and Minority Leader of both Houses of Congress. All other Senators currently earn a salary of $165,200.


Power and responsibilities

The President pro tempore is an office of the Senate mandated by Article I, section 3 of the Constitution. Although 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, including ruling on points of order and enforcing decorum in the Senate Chamber and Galleries. The President Pro Tempore also signs Legislation passed by the Senate before it is sent to the President for his signature. The President pro tempore represents the Senate at formal events.

Presidential disability and succession

The President pro tempore is one of the two authorities to whom declarations of presidential inability or of ability to resume the presidency must be transmitted under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. (The Speaker of the House is the other.)

The President pro tempore is third in the line of presidential succession, following the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.


The office of President pro tempore was established in 1789 by the Constitution of the United States. Originally, the President pro tempore was appointed on a daily or weekly basis when the Vice President of the United States was not present to preside over the Senate. Until the 1960s, it was common practice for the Vice President to preside over daily Senate sessions, so the President pro tempore rarely presided over the Senate unless the Vice Presidency became vacant.

Until 1891, the President pro tempore only served until the return of the Vice President to the chair or the adjournment of a session of Congress. Between 1792 and 1886, the President pro tempore was second in the line of presidential succession following the Vice President and preceding the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Thus, when President Andrew Johnson was impeached and tried in 1868, Senate President pro tempore Benjamin Wade was next in line to the Presidency. Wade's radicalism is thought by most historians to be a major reason why the Senate, which did not want to see Wade in the White House, acquitted Johnson. The President pro tempore and the Speaker were removed from the line of succession in 1886, but were restored in 1947. This time, however, the President pro tempore followed the Speaker.

Following the resignation for health reasons of then-President pro tempore William P. Frye, a Congress divided between progressive Republicans, conservative Republicans, and Democrats reached a compromise by which each of their candidates would rotate holding the office from 1911 to 1913.


Acting President pro tempore

The President pro tempore, just like the Vice President, over time has ceased presiding over the Senate on a daily basis, notably due to the task's lack of power or glamor. More importantly, since the President pro tempore is now usually the most senior senator of the majority party, he or she most likely also chairs a major Senate committee, along with performing other duties related to seniority. Therefore, the President pro tempore has less time now than in the past to preside daily over the Senate. Instead, junior senators of the majority party are designated acting President pro tempore to preside over the Senate on a daily basis. This allows junior senators to learn proper parliamentary procedure.

Permanent Acting President pro tempore

In June 1963, due to the illness of President pro tempore Carl T. Hayden, Senator Lee Metcalf was designated Permanent Acting President pro tempore. No term was imposed on this designation, so Metcalf retained it until he died in office in 1978.

Deputy President pro tempore

The ceremonial post of Deputy President pro tempore was created for Hubert Humphrey, a former Vice President of the United States, in 1977 following his losing bid to become the Senate majority leader. The Senate resolution creating the position stated that any former President of the United States or Vice President of the United States serving in the United States Senate would be entitled to this position. Since Humphrey's death in 1978, no other former President or Vice President has served in the Senate. As of 2006, if they successfully sought election to the Senate, three former Presidents, (Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton), and three former Vice-Presidents, (Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle, and Al Gore), are eligible for the position of Deputy President pro tempore. Had former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale won his senate election bid, he would have been entitled to the position of Deputy President pro tempore.

When the President pro tempore becomes unable to perform the duties of office for an extended period, the current practice is to elect a Senator as Deputy President pro tempore, as opposed to a Permanent Acting President pro tempore, to carry out the duties until the President pro tempore can resume the duties. George J. Mitchell was elected Deputy President pro tempore in 1987-1988, due to the illness of President pro tempore John C. Stennis. The office to date has remained vacant. Hubert Humphrey and George J. Mitchell are the only Senators to date that have held the title.

The post may be purely honorary and ceremonial, but nevertheless, it comes with a salary. By statute, the compensation granted to the position holder equals the rate of annual compensation paid to the President pro tempore, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader.

President pro tempore emeritus

President pro tempore emeritus is an honorary title given to the member of the minority party in the United States Senate who has served as President pro tempore at some time in his or her career (Thus, a new person gains the title only when party control in the senate changes). Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, has held the title since January 4, 2007. While it is possible for Congress to be in session without a sitting president pro tempore emeritus, this has not yet happened longer than a 12 day period since the position was created. That gap is due to the fact that Strom Thurmond retired a few days before party control of the Senate switched hands from Democrats to Republicans (January 3, 2003).

The first President pro tempore emeritus was named in 2001 after Democrats gained a majority in the Senate. Democrat Robert Byrd was elected President pro tempore. To honor the previous President pro tempore, the Senate gave Senator Thurmond the honorary title of President pro tempore emeritus. Thurmond served from June 6, 2001 until January 3, 2003.

While the President pro tempore emeritus has no official duties, he works closely with party leaders and advises them on the functions of the Senate.

A senator can also switch back to President pro tempore from President pro tempore emeritus. At the beginning of the 110th Congress on January 4, 2007 (when party control switched from the Republicans to the Democrats), Robert Byrd became the first Senator to do so and Ted Stevens became the 3rd President pro tempore emeritus.


See also


External Links

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This page was last modified 09:59, 23 January 2007 by dKosopedia user Lestatdelc. Based on work by Chad Lupkes and dKosopedia user(s) Apascover, Clang and Rorschach. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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