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Becoming a Senator

Prior to 1976, new members looked to the other senator from their state or to party officials for advice on how to survive in this unfamiliar environment. The 1976 election produced 17 new senators—the largest infusion in 18 years. The next two elections generated even larger classes, with 20 in 1978 and 18 in 1980. These three elections encouraged Senate officials to develop well-organized and responsive welcoming programs. Typically these programs last several days in November or December and coincide with party leadership elections. Presenters range from the party floor leaders to veterans of the most recent freshman class. Sessions span a host of practical topics from “parliamentary procedure” and “setting up a new office,” to “life in the Senate.” In addition to this bipartisan, Senate-wide program, each of the two political parties organizes briefings and retreats, to orient their senators.


Explore Senate Art

Featured Here:

The Old Senate Chamber and In the Capitol—The Senate Chamber. by Unidentified after Henri H. Lovie.

As part of the newly elected senators’ orientation program, they hear about the history of the Senate, and its various meeting places and important legislation, in order to better understand the institution.

Explore the Senate's collection of paintings, sculpture, graphic art, and decorative art.

Remarks by Senator Byrd at the Orientation of New Senators

Robert C. Byrd by Michael Shane Neal
In December 1996 Senate party leaders asked Senator Robert C. Byrd—who subsequently became the longest-serving member in Senate history—to brief the members elected in November. At a closed meeting in the Senate Chamber, that 15-member class received advice from the experienced legislator. “You will shortly join the ranks of a very select group of individuals who have been honored with the title of United States Senator since 1789 when the Senate first convened,” he began. Read more from Senator Byrd’s orientation talk.


In the News!

Lame Duck Sessions

States in the Senate

Image: Screenshot of the States in the Senate homepage.

Each state has its own unique place in Senate history. Explore the States in the Senate website to learn about your state.

Civil War Sesquicentennial

View online features that explore the Senate's wartime experience.

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