History of the Whip
The role of the Whip can be traced back to the United Kingdom’s Parliament which adopted the term Whip from the fox-hunting position, ‘whipper-in,’ or the person who kept the fox hounds focused on their mission. In Congress, the Majority Whip’s job is to count votes and ‘whip’ up support for Democratic legislation and keep members focused on the mission.
The Republican Party created the position of Whip in 1897. They have had 16 Whips within the Republican Party structure since then. The Democratic Party appointed its first whip in 1899, and Congressman Clyburn will become the 24th Democratic Whip in history including both Majority and Minority Whips. In total, counting both Democrat and Republican Whips, there have been 24 Majority Whips.
The first Whip position was created by Speaker Thomas B. Reed, who appointed James A. Tawney of Minnesota to keep track of the whereabouts of Republican Party Members. Since then, the House Republicans have always had an elected whip, however not with as formalized an organizational structure as the Democratic Whip. Not until Republicans assumed the House Majority in 1995, did they develop a whip structure with formalized positions below the main Whip.
Soon after the Republicans and Democrats had a Whip, the Democrats set up their whip structure and types of whips around 1901. The Democratic Whip was an appointed position until 1986 when it became elected. The Whip, and an official whip organization, was first extensively used in the 1930’s, when Democrats chose ‘assistant whips’ to be responsible for Members from specified geographic regions.