The Vice President of the United States is the “presiding officer” of the Senate; in his absence the duties are performed by the president pro tempore. The presiding officer of the House of Representatives is the “speaker” who is elected by the House members. The Speaker may designate any member of the House to act in his/her absence.
The positions of Senate “majority and minority leaders” have been in existence only since the early years of the twentieth century. These leaders are elected at the beginning of each new Congress by a majority vote of the senators in their political party. In cooperation with their party organizations, leaders are responsible for the design and achievement of a legislative program. This involves managing the flow of legislation, expediting non-controversial measures, and keeping members informed regarding proposed action on pending business. Each leader serves as an ex officio member of his party’s policymaking and organizational bodies, and is aided by an assistant floor leader, or whip, and a party secretary.
The House leadership is structured essentially the same as the Senate, with the members each political party responsible for the election of their respective leader and whips. For a directory of the current members of Congress, their committee assignments, and leadership roles, click here.