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Klobuchar, Franken to get double-digit seniority boost in 2011

Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are primed for a double-digit bump in seniority — though it’s unlikely either of them will rise high enough to be assigned a committee chairmanship.

WASHINGTON — Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken stand to gain a double-digit bump in seniority in the 112th session of the Senate.

All told, 15 senators won’t be returning next year, a vast majority of them senior to Minnesota’s delegation. The churn will bump Klobuchar up 12 spots to 67th from 79th before. Franken stands to gain 14, moving to 83rd from 97th.

The elections may look at first like they didn’t take out that many senators — just Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold and Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln lost in their general elections, while two others were ousted in party primaries. Yet the real list of electoral casualties is much higher. At least five others (four of them Democrats) bowed out in part because they were unlikely to win reelection. A further two only got appointed to their seats on condition that they not run. And one senator (Kansas Republican Sam Brownback) bowed out to run successfully for governor.

Just one race remains outstanding, as the number of write-in ballots (that one would assume tilt heavily toward Sen. Lisa Murkowski) is slightly more than the number of ballots cast for Republican Joe Miller. If Murkowski falls somehow, both Klobuchar and Franken would gain another spot.

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Seniority is used in the Senate to determine everything from office space to hideaway locations to parking places. It’s a key factor in committee assignments and senators, when in committee, sit in order of their seniority. Those more senior (and nearer the center) get their questions answered first.

Yet it’s unlikely that either Klobuchar or Franken will gain the gavel of a full committee in the 112th session. In the 111th session (which we’re presently concluding), the lowest-ranking Democrat to hold a full-committee gavel was Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas (49th overall), who chaired the Agriculture Committee.

However Klobuchar, at 67th, may be within reach of subcommittee chairmanship. It’s a bit early to speculate on that though, as discussions on committee placement won’t begin in earnest until senators return for the lame duck session sometime during the week of November 15.

More senior than both Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken

Senator Party/State Rank Reason for leaving
Chris Dodd D-Conn. 8 Retiring
Arlen Specter D-Pa. 10 Defeated – Primary
Kit Bond R-Mo. 20 Retiring
Byron Dorgan D-N.D. 26 Retiring
Judd Gregg R-N.H. 28
Russ Feingold D-Wisc. 29 Defeated – General
Robert Bennett R-Utah 31 Defeated – Primary
Sam Brownback R-Kans. 37 Elected governor
Jim Bunning R-Ky. 47 Retiring
Blanche Lincoln D-Ark. 49 Defeated – General
Evan Bayh D-Ind. 50 Retiring
George Voinovich R-Ohio 51 Retiring

More senior than Al Franken but junior to Amy Klobuchar

Senator Party/State Rank Reason for leaving
Roland Burris D-Ill. 93 Retiring
Ted Kaufman D-Del. 94 Retiring