Parliamentarian of the United States Senate

Parliamentarian of the United States Senate
Seal of the United States Senate.svg
Seal of the United States Senate
Elizabeth MacDonough

since 2012
United States Senate
Member ofSenate Dais
Reports toThe President of the Senate
NominatorThe Senate Majority Leader
AppointerThe Senate Majority Leader
Term lengthPleasure of the Senate Majority Leader
Constituting instrumentStanding Rules of the United States Senate
First holderCharles Watkins

The Parliamentarian of the United States Senate is the official advisor to the United States Senate on the interpretation of Standing Rules of the United States Senate and parliamentary procedure. Incumbent parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has held the office since 2012, appointed by then Majority Leader Harry Reid.[2]

As the Presiding Officer of the Senate may not be, and usually is not, aware of the parliamentary situation currently facing the Senate, a parliamentary staff sits second from the left on the Senate dais to advise the Presiding Officer on how to respond to inquiries and motions from Senators (including "the Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery"). The role of the parliamentary staff is advisory, and the Presiding Officer may overrule the advice of the parliamentarian. In practice this is rare, and the most recent example of a Vice President (as President of the Senate) overruling the parliamentarian was Nelson Rockefeller in 1975.[3]


An important role of the parliamentarian is to decide what can and cannot be done under the Senate's Reconciliation process under the provisions of the Byrd Rule.[2] These rulings are important because they allow certain bills to be approved by a simple majority, instead of the sixty votes needed to end debate and block a filibuster. A meeting to screen a draft bill by the Parliamentarian Office staff in the presence of Republican and Democratic staff is sometimes informally termed a Byrd Bath.[citation needed]

The office also refers bills to the appropriate committees on behalf of the Senate's Presiding Officer, and referees efforts by the ruling party to change the Senate rules by rulings from the chair. The parliamentarian is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Senate Majority Leader. Traditionally, the parliamentarian is chosen from senior staff in the parliamentarian office, which helps ensure consistency in the application of the Senate's complex rules. The last two parliamentarians have served under both Republican and Democratic Senate rule.

The Parliamentarian's salary is $172,500 per year, as of 2018.[4]

List of Parliamentarians

The following have served as Senate Parliamentarian:[5]

No. Years Parliamentarian
1 1935–1964[6] Charles L. Watkins[7]
2 1964–1974 Floyd Riddick
3 1974–1981 Murray Zweben[8]
4a 1981–1987 Robert Dove
5a 1987–1995 Alan Frumin
4b 1995–2001 Robert Dove
5b 2001–2012 Alan Frumin
6 2012–present Elizabeth MacDonough[9]

See also


  1. ^ Brudnick, Ida A. (April 11, 2018). "Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Bolton, Alexander (January 31, 2012). "After nearly 20 years, Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin to retire". The Hill. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Young, Jeffrey (February 16, 2010). "Healthcare reform and reconciliation a bad mix, ex-parliamentarian says". The Hill. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  4. ^ Brudnick, Ida A. (April 11, 2018). "Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Gold, Martin (2008). Senate procedure and practice. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7425-6305-6.
  6. ^ Heitshusen, Valerie. "Parliamentarian_of_the_United_States_Senate" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  7. ^ "First Official Parliamentarian". United States Senate.
  8. ^ "Murray Zweben". Washington Post. September 24, 2000.
  9. ^ Rogers, David (February 6, 2012). "Elizabeth MacDonough is Senate's first female parliamentarian". Politico. Retrieved April 12, 2014.



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