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Senate Chamber Desks

Overview     |    Seating Plans    |     Desk Occupants     |     The Desks     |     Traditions     |     Timeline

Seating Plans

Since 2003 (108th Congress, 1st Session), the Senate has provided interactive seating plans to identify where each of the 100 members sit in the Chamber and which historic desk they use. This seating plan is updated at the start of each Congress, and as needed if members change desks or seating locations or if a new senator is sworn in.

Explore the current seating plan below, use the dropdown for access to past interactive seating plans, or browse PDFs of seating configurations from before 2003.

Seated Senator
Map Legend

ADS - Assistant Democratic Secretary
ARS - Assistant Republican Secretary
AS - Assistant Secretary of the Senate
DS - Democratic Secretary
JC - Journal Clerk
LC - Legislative Clerk
RS - Republican Secretary
P - Parliamentarian
SA - Sergeant at Arms
SS - Secretary of the Senate
VP - Vice President of the U.S. (or president pro tempore or majority member)
Note: The numbers on the map are desk identification numbers and do not indicate occupant seniority or party.

Did You Know?

  • Seating Arrangement
  • Image: Senate Chamber, (in U.S. Capitol.)
    “Senate Chamber, (in U.S. Capitol.)”
    Bell and Brothers
    U.S. Senate Collection

    Today, Democrats traditionally sit on the presiding officer's right, and Republicans on the left. But the division has not always been as clearly defined as it is now. In the early years of the Senate an equal number of desks were placed on each side of the room, separated by a central passageway, without regard to party size. When one party elected more than half the senators, some majority party members had to find space on the minority party side of the aisle. When the Senate moved to its current Chamber in 1859, the practice of dividing the desks equally continued for several years even though the new Chamber was large enough to permit a flexible seating arrangement. In 1877 the practice began of moving desks back and forth across the center aisle to permit all majority party members to sit together on the appropriate side, except in a few cases where an unusually large majority existed.

    Senators independent of either party have traditionally chosen for themselves which side of the aisle to sit on. Once, during the 1950s, when Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon had left the Republican Party but not yet joined the Democratic Party, he placed his chair temporarily in the middle of the center aisle in order to demonstrate his independence.

  • Choosing Seats
  • Image: Combined Seating Charts
    Plans like these, with movable paper names of senators, are used to assign desk locations at the beginning of each new Congress.
    U.S. Senate Collection
    The Opening of the United States Senate
    “The Opening of the United States Senate.”
    Unidentified Artist, after Birch
    Harper’s Weekly, December 13, 1902
    U.S. Senate Collection

    The original 48 desks made by Thomas Constantine in 1819 were constructed in such a way as to form three concentric semicircles on the Senate floor. Each desk was custom made for a particular location within the Chamber. Today the desks are no longer arranged in their original order, but are moved within the Chamber to suit the needs of the Senate.

    At the start of each Congress, the desks are reapportioned between the two aisles of the Chamber based on the number of Democrats and Republicans. After that, senators have the opportunity to relocate. Historically, the Senate Chamber desks were assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. When a seat became open, the first senator to speak for it won the right to it. Today, at the beginning of each Congress, senators are given the option to change their seats based on seniority. There are typically two reasons a senator might want to change desks: to gain a better location within the Chamber, or to occupy a desk previously used by a particular senator.

    The only desks that are not assigned in the traditional manner are the Daniel Webster Desk, which is always occupied by the senior senator from New Hampshire; the Jefferson Davis Desk, which is given to the senior senator from Mississippi; and the Henry Clay Desk, which is given to the senior senator from Kentucky. The assignment of these desks is governed by a series of Senate resolutions.

  • Party Seating
  • Image: Seating Arrangement "Cherokee Strip"
    Desks shaded yellow indicate seats of Democratic senators, six of whom sit on the Republican side of the Senate Chamber.
    76th Congress
    February 21, 1939
    U.S. Senate Historical Office

    Occasionally one party maintains such an overwhelming majority that it becomes necessary for majority party members to sit on the minority party side in the Senate Chamber. During the 60th Congress (1907–1909), 10 Republicans sat on the Democratic side, while during the 75th Congress (1937–1939), 13 Democrats sat on the Republican side. Such seating became known as the “Cherokee Strip,” a reference to the region in Oklahoma with land that at the time belonged neither to the Indian Territory nor the United States. By the 1930s, it had become the practice for senior senators to take front-row, center-aisle seats; junior majority party members who filled the “Cherokee Strip” were assigned either rear-row or end seats on the minority party side.

    The last time a “Cherokee Strip” existed in the Senate Chamber was during the 76th Congress (1939–1941). Six of the 69 Democratic senators sat with the 23 Republican and 4 Independent senators. During the 89th Congress (1965–1967), four senators were placed in an unusual fifth row behind the Democratic senators.