What Is the Right of First Recognition in the Senate and Why Does It Matter?

Legislative Process By Kevin R. Kosar May 9, 2024
Sen. Alben W. Barkley (D-KY), who stumbled then succeded in gaining the right of first recogniton in 1937. Source: Library of Congress.

Steven S. Smith, “Note 42. The Senate Majority Leader’s Right of First Recognition,” Notes on Congressional Politics, May 8, 2017.

Prof. Steven S. Smith has a great post on the right of first recognition on his Substack He writes,

“Senate majority leaders say that their office comes with only one formal power—the right of first recognition.  It is interpreted as a precedent that requires the presiding officer to recognize the majority leader and then the minority leader if the leader and other senators are seeking recognition to speak or make a motion simultaneously. In practice, the presiding officer simply looks to the majority leader whenever he or she is looking to call on another senator. The ability to be recognized before other senators gives the majority leader an opportunity to address the Senate, make a motion, and propound unanimous consent agreements before another senator can do so. This gives the majority leader an opportunity to try to set the agenda of the Senate.”

You can read the full post here, and peruse Prof. Smith’s many books on Congress here.


Stay in the know about our news and events.