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Representative Sereno Payne of New York was the first House Majority Leader, elected to the position in 1899.

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Majority Leaders of the House (1899 to present)

Sereno Payne/tiles/non-collection/i/im_people_majleader_2002_021_019.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Sereno Payne of New York chaired the Ways and Means Committee before becoming the House's first Majority Leader.
The House of Representatives, with its large membership, has relied on Majority Leaders since the late-19th century to expedite legislative business and to keep their parties united.

In the three decades following the Civil War, when America’s current two-party system crystalized, the concept of the Majority Leader was far more informal than it is today. At the time, the majority party depended on powerful committee chairmen—either from the Ways and Means Committee or the Appropriations Committee—to pull double duty as both chairman and as the majority’s legislative conductor on the House Floor.

That began to change on the eve of the 20th century. Although the earliest party leaders continued to serve as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, historians and congressional scholars tend to agree that the Majority Leader became “a separate and consistently identifiable party office” in 1899, according to Randall B. Ripley in his study Party Leaders in the House of Representatives.

Initially, the Majority Leader was an appointed position, chosen by the Speaker. In 1899, Speaker David B. Henderson, a nine-term Republican from Iowa, selected Sereno Payne of New York to shoulder the responsibilities of serving as both Ways and Means chairman and Republican floor leader. When Democrats captured the majority following the 1910 elections, the party caucus maintained that dual arrangement, so that from 1899 to 1919, regardless of the party in power, whoever served as Ways and Means chairman also served as Majority Leader. In 1919, following the example set by Republican Leader Frank Mondell of Wyoming in the 66th Congress (1919–1921), Majority Leaders more or less stopped serving on committees.

With Democrats in charge of the House for the 62nd Congress (1911–1913), they made one significant adjustment to the office that remains in effect today: hoping to limit the power of the Speaker, Democrats made the Majority Leader an elected position. In 1911, Democrat Oscar W. Underwood of Alabama became the first Member elected by his party to serve as Majority Leader. Republicans began electing Majority Leaders in conference in 1923. Since 1899, Majority Leaders have come from virtually every section of the country. No woman and no person of color has ever served as Majority Leader from either party. Today, Majority Leaders are elected every two years in secret balloting of the party caucus or conference before the start of a new Congress.

The role of the majority leader has been defined by history and tradition. This officer is charged with scheduling legislation for floor consideration; planning the daily, weekly, and annual legislative agendas; consulting with Members to gauge party sentiment; and, generally working to advance the goals of the majority party. Information on the current activities of the majority leader is available from The Office of the Majority Leader's web site.

Congress and Years Name PartyState or Territory
56th (1899–1901) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
57th (1901–1903) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
58th (1903–1905) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
59th (1905–1907) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
60th (1907–1909) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
61st (1909–1911) PAYNE, Sereno Elisha Republican NY
62nd (1911–1913) UNDERWOOD, Oscar Wilder Democrat AL
63rd (1913–1915) UNDERWOOD, Oscar Wilder Democrat AL
64th (1915–1917) KITCHIN, Claude Democrat NC
65th (1917–1919) KITCHIN, Claude Democrat NC
66th (1919–1921) MONDELL, Frank Wheeler Republican WY
67th (1921–1923) MONDELL, Frank Wheeler Republican WY
68th (1923–1925) LONGWORTH, Nicholas Republican OH
69th (1925–1927) TILSON, John Quillin Republican CT
70th (1927–1929) TILSON, John Quillin Republican CT
71st (1929–1931) TILSON, John Quillin Republican CT
72nd (1931–1933) RAINEY, Henry Thomas Democrat IL
73rd (1933–1935) BYRNS, Joseph Wellington Democrat TN
74th (1935–1937) BANKHEAD, William Brockman 1 Democrat AL
75th (1937–1939) RAYBURN, Samuel Taliaferro Democrat TX
76th (1939–1941) RAYBURN, Samuel Taliaferro 2 Democrat TX
76th (1939–1941) MCCORMACK, John William 3 Democrat MA
77th (1941–1943) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
78th (1943–1945) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
79th (1945–1947) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
80th (1947–1949) HALLECK, Charles Abraham Republican IN
81st (1949–1951) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
82nd (1951–1953) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
83rd (1953–1955) HALLECK, Charles Abraham Republican IN
84th (1955–1957) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
85th (1957–1959) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
86th (1959–1961) MCCORMACK, John William Democrat MA
87th (1961–1963) MCCORMACK, John William 4 Democrat MA
87th (1961–1963) ALBERT, Carl Bert 5 Democrat OK
88th (1963–1965) ALBERT, Carl Bert Democrat OK
89th (1965–1967) ALBERT, Carl Bert Democrat OK
90th (1967–1969) ALBERT, Carl Bert Democrat OK
91st (1969–1971) ALBERT, Carl Bert Democrat OK
92nd (1971–1973) BOGGS, Thomas Hale, Sr. 6 Democrat LA
93rd (1973–1975) O'NEILL, Thomas Philip, Jr. (Tip) Democrat MA
94th (1975–1977) O'NEILL, Thomas Philip, Jr. (Tip) Democrat MA
95th (1977–1979) WRIGHT, James Claude, Jr. Democrat TX
96th (1979–1981) WRIGHT, James Claude, Jr. Democrat TX
97th (1981–1983) WRIGHT, James Claude, Jr. Democrat TX
98th (1983–1985) WRIGHT, James Claude, Jr. Democrat TX
99th (1985–1987) WRIGHT, James Claude, Jr. Democrat TX
100th (1987–1989) FOLEY, Thomas Stephen Democrat WA
101st (1989–1991) FOLEY, Thomas Stephen 7 Democrat WA
101st (1989–1991) GEPHARDT, Richard Andrew 8 Democrat MO
102nd (1991–1993) GEPHARDT, Richard Andrew Democrat MO
103rd (1993–1995) GEPHARDT, Richard Andrew Democrat MO
104th (1995–1997) ARMEY, Richard Keith Republican TX
105th (1997–1999) ARMEY, Richard Keith Republican TX
106th (1999–2001) ARMEY, Richard Keith Republican TX
107th (2001–2003) ARMEY, Richard Keith Republican TX
108th (2003–2005) DELAY, Thomas Dale Republican TX
109th (2005–2007) DELAY, Thomas Dale 9 Republican TX
109th (2005–2007) BLUNT, Roy 10 Republican MO
109th (2005–2007) BOEHNER, John Andrew 11 Republican OH
110th (2007–2009) HOYER, Steny Hamilton Democrat MD
111th (2009–2011) HOYER, Steny Hamilton Democrat MD
112th (2011–2013) CANTOR, Eric Republican VA
113th (2013–2015) CANTOR, Eric 12 Republican VA
113th (2013–2015) MCCARTHY, Kevin 13 Republican CA
114th (2015–2017) MCCARTHY, Kevin Republican CA
115th (2017–2019) MCCARTHY, Kevin Republican CA
116th (2019–2021) HOYER, Steny Hamilton Democrat MD
117th (2021–2023) HOYER, Steny Hamilton Democrat MD
118th (2023–2025) SCALISE, Steve Republican LA

Footnotes

1Elected Speaker on June 4, 1936, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker Joseph Byrns. From June 5 to 20, 1936, Representative John J. O’Connor of New York served as the acting Majority Leader.

2Elected Speaker on September 16, 1940, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker William Bankhead.

3Elected Majority Leader on September 25, 1940, to fill the vacancy created when Majority Leader Samuel Rayburn was elected Speaker. From September 19 to 25, 1940, Representative Lindsay Warren of North Carolina served as the acting Majority Leader.

4Elected Speaker on January 10, 1962, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker Samuel Rayburn.

5Elected Majority Leader on January 10, 1962, to fill the vacancy created when Majority Leader John McCormack was elected Speaker.

6Disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau, Alaska, October 16, 1972. Presumed dead pursuant to House Resolution 1, at the commencement of the 93rd Congress.

7Elected Speaker on June 6, 1989, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker James Wright, Jr.

8Elected Majority Leader on June 14, 1989, to fill the vacancy created when Majority Leader Thomas Foley was elected Speaker on June 6, 1989.

9Temporarily stepped aside as Majority Leader on September 28, 2005, pursuant to Republican Conference rules.

10Elected Majority Leader on an interim basis on September 28, 2005, to fill the vacancy created when Majority Leader Tom DeLay temporarily stepped aside.

11Elected Majority Leader on February 2, 2006.

12Resigned as Majority Leader on July 31, 2014.

13Elected Majority Leader on June 19, 2014, and assumed office on July 31, 2014, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Majority Leader Eric Cantor.