Role of the Whip
The "Whipper In"
The name for the position of Whip is derived from the term "whipper in", which is a British term for the person responsible for keeping the foxhounds from leaving the pack. It was first used in the House of Commons in the late 1700s. In 1897, Speaker Thomas Reed (R-ME) first adopted the term in the U.S. House of Representatives when he appointed Representative James A. Tawney (R-MN) a whip to help him keep track of party Members. The first Democratic Whip was appointed in 1901, and an official whip organization was first extensively used in the 1930s by the Democrats.
Today’s Majority Whip is charged with mobilizing the party vote on important legislation, acting as a liaison between Members and the Democratic Leadership, and coordinating strategy within the Caucus.
The Democratic Leader appointed the Democratic Whip until 1986, since then the caucus has elected the Whip. The Whip is assisted in his or her duties by a large whip organization made up of Members and staff.
Mobilizing the Democratic Vote
The Majority Whip talks to Democratic Members about their level of support for a piece of legislation before it comes to the Floor for a major vote. The Whip also works with Members to build strong support within the caucus for the Democratic agenda.
Liaison Between Members and Leadership
The Majority Whip acts as liaison between Democratic Members and their Leadership by distributing information to Members such as the upcoming schedule of legislation, and providing information to Leadership concerning support within the caucus for various pieces of legislation.
The Majority Whip provides Members with "The Daily WhipLine" and "The Whip Pack", which detail by day and week respectively the legislation on the House floor. In addition to The Daily WhipLine and The Whip Pack, the Majority Whip also distributes the House calendar, which lists the days of the year that the House of Representatives is expected to be in session.
Finally, the Majority Whip coordinates legislative strategy and scheduling with the Democratic Leader. The Whip is charged with "getting out the vote," by ensuring that Members will be present on the floor during close votes. The Whip is largely responsible for coordinating voting strategy among the party members to ensure wide support among caucus members for the Democratic position.