Big Seats to Fill: US Senate Seats Held by Presidents
Four current members of the U.S. Senate hold seats once occupied by two former presidents; three future presidents once served alongside each other in the chamber
Nine former or sitting U.S. Senators launched presidential bids during the 2016 cycle – four seeking the Democratic nomination (Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee) and five on the Republican side (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham).
While the White House dreams have already been dashed for three of these candidates (Chafee, Graham, and Webb – presuming he does not launch an independent bid), there are probably at least even odds that one of the remaining six will become the 45th president of the United States.
To date, sixteen U.S. Senators later served as president and quite possibly one of the 100 members comprising the chamber of the 114th Congress will add his or her name to that list in the coming years.
There have been four U.S. Senators in history who served in a seat previously held by a former president and then later became president in their own right:
- In Virginia: John Tyler (1827-1836) served in James Monroe’s (1790-1794) Class I seat
- In Tennessee: Andrew Johnson (1857-1862, 1875) served in Andrew Jackson’s (1797-1798) Class I seat
- In Ohio: Warren Harding (1915-1921) served in William Henry Harrison’s (1825-1828) Class III seat
- In Massachusetts: John Kennedy (1953-1960) served in John Quincy Adams’ (1803-1808) Class I seat
At one point in U.S. history, three future presidents served alongside one another in the nation’s upper legislative chamber.
From March 4, 1827 through May 20, 1828 during the 20th Congress, Adams-supporting William Henry Harrison of Ohio and Jacksonians Martin Van Buren of New York and John Tyler of Virginia were all in office in the U.S. Senate.
On May 20, 1828, Harrison resigned to become Minister to Colombia under President Adams while Tyler and Van Buren continued to serve until December 20, 1828 when the latter resigned after being elected governor of New York.
Four other pairs of future presidents served together in the U.S. Senate during the 19th and 20th Centuries:
- John Tyler and James Buchanan (December 6, 1834 to February 29, 1836)
- James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce (March 4, 1837 to February 28, 1842)
- Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon (December 1, 1950 to January 1, 1953)
- Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy (January 3, 1953 to December 22, 1960)
All told, at least one future president served in the U.S. Senate during 87 of the 228 years since the 1st Congress in 1789, or 38.2 percent of the time.
And who currently holds the U.S. Senate seats in which past presidents once served?
Four members of the chamber serve in seats once occupied by two ex-presidents:
- Bob Corker (R-TN): Andrew Jackson (1797-1798) and Andrew Johnson (1857-1862; 1875)
- Tim Kaine (D-VA): James Monroe (1790-1794) and John Tyler (1827-1836)
- Rob Portman (R-OH): William H. Harrison (1825-1828) and Warren Harding (1915-1921)
- Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): John Quincy Adams (1803-1808) and John Kennedy (1953-1960)
While nine others hold the seat of one former president:
- Lamar Alexander (R-TN): Andrew Jackson (1823-1825)
- Kelly Ayotte (R-NH): Franklin Pierce (1837-1842)
- Barbara Boxer (D-CA): Richard Nixon (1950-1953)
- John Cornyn (R-TX): Lyndon Johnson (1949-1961)
- Joe Donnelly (D-IN): Benjamin Harrison (1881-1887)
- Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Martin Van Buren (1821-1828)
- Mark Kirk (R-IL): Barack Obama (2005-2008)
- Claire McCaskill (D-MO): Harry Truman (1935-1945)
- Pat Toomey (R-PA): James Buchanan (1834-1845)
Both Corker and Alexander can claim Andrew Jackson as a predecessor as the seventh president of the United States served one stint in both Tennessee’s Class I and Class II seats.
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