We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Ranking Member?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A ranking member is a member of a congressional committee or legislative committee who is the second in command, or is perhaps the leader of the minority in the committee. In some cases, the term ranking minority member is used to differentiate who is in the minority, but that may not always be the case, depending on the standard practices for the state or country. This member may not have all the duties of the chairman, but may still have some additional tasks to perform.

Typically, the ranking member designation is bestowed on the senior member of the committee, if that person is not the chairman. If the chairman is the senior member, then the title is often given to the second-most senior member. Still, this is not a steadfast rule. Ranking member status may be bestowed upon individuals because they may have some direct experience with certain issues that makes their input on the committee more valuable.

One of the most common tasks a ranking member will perform is to deal with other members of his or her party to determine where the votes are on a given issue. In the full legislative body, this person is known as a "whip." In a committee setting, there is no whip because it is a much more intimate experience. The committee phase is where much of the legislative action takes place, such as testimony and other legislative hearings. The ranking member may be responsible for inviting or providing some of these individuals.

In some cases, the ranking member of a committee may also serve as the vice chair. In the chairman’s absence, it is then up to this member to run the committee meeting. This may be a largely procedural matter, but the individual may have the power to at least delay a vote on an issue until the chairman can return, and make a more permanent decision.

As with any committee procedure, the ranking member does not have a great deal of power in relation to the other members. The chairman can often unilaterally bring up or stop an issue in the committee, but that is not a privilege often extended to ranking members. Each member of the committee receives one vote, but the ranking member may be able to influence others more easily, by threatening to convince others to vote one way or another on an issue. New legislators may be especially receptive to the position of a more senior member.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Emilski — On Nov 22, 2011

@cardsfan27 - True, but most political systems are like that and America's is no different. In order to get things passed that people do want passed, they must play the game the way it is set up. That is why it is important for people to adapt and for the ranking members to hold power in order to get things passed that they want.

If you challenge the system you will probably lose and it is up to the people that hold the power, a.k.a. the ranking members and heads of the committees, in order to be honest with their jobs and be able to express their power in a way to get what they want passed and to do good for society.

By cardsfan27 — On Nov 21, 2011

@TreeMan - Absolutely. The ranking member of the committee holds a lot of power in these committees, thus they hold a lot of power in regards to the bills being accepting to be heard on the House floor or being completely scraped and rejected.

To get things done in Congress one must hold power. That is why being the head of a committee is a very sought after thing and it is very vital for a congressman to be the head of a committee or a ranking member in order to further enhance their political careers.

It may be unfortunate that this is the ways things are done, but it is the political system that we live in and is an inevitable thing that occurs in the world of politics.

By TreeMan — On Nov 21, 2011

@kenctuckycat - I agree in regards to the importance of the ranking members. There is a reason why people in Congress want to be the heads of the committees and that consists of the amount of pull and power that you have in regards to bills being passed.

Even if you are not the head of the committee but are the ranking member of your party you still hold the power of your party in the committee and speak for the voice of the minority in the room.

People take for granted the importance of these committees and just assume that everything is taken care of on the House floor. This is not at all the case and it is the behind the scenes things that occur in the committees that get most of the job done, with the ranking members leading the charge.

By kentuckycat — On Nov 20, 2011

The various committees of Congress are the most important places for a bill to go. Most of the time a bill does not go to the house floor, it is referred to a committee where it is discussed and decided whether or not it should be listened to on the house floor.

Most of the time the bill is killed in the committee and never goes to the floor. This makes the ranking members of these committees so important.

Since they are considered ranking members they already have more pull in the committees as far as bills go. If they support a bill it will probably go to the floor at least and if not it may get killed right there.

In these small meeting rooms a lot of the work in Congress occurs and that makes these ranking members so important.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.