Congressman Clyburn to become Majority Whip on January 4th

Dec 22, 2006

(Washington, DC) – Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn will be sworn in as House Majority Whip on Thursday, January 4, 2007. On that day, Congressman Clyburn will become the first South Carolinian to become Majority Whip, and the second African American to hold the position.

"Many people have asked me, what is a Whip? Its roots can be traced back to the United Kingdom’s Parliament that adopted the term Whip from the fox-hunting position ‘whipper-in’ who kept the fox hounds focused on their mission," Congressman Clyburn said. "My role will be to ‘whip’ up support for Democratic legislation when a vote is scheduled on the House floor, and keep our members focused on the mission."

The position of Whip in the United States Congress dates back to 1897. The Republican Party created the position of Whip, and they have had 16 Whips within the Republican Party structure since then.  The Democratic Party appointed its first whip in 1899, and Congressman Clyburn will become the 24th Democratic Whip in history including both Majority and Minority Whips. In total, counting both Democrat and Republican Whips, there have been 24 Majority Whips. 

The first Whip position was created by Speaker Thomas B. Reed, who appointed James A. Tawney of Minnesota to keep track of the whereabouts of Republican Party Members.  Since then the House Republicans have always had an elected whip, however not with as formalized an organizational structure as the Democratic Whip.  Not until Republicans assumed the House Majority in 1995, did they develop a whip structure with formalized positions below the main Whip. 

Soon after the Republicans and Democrats had a Whip, the Democrats set up their whip structure and types of whips around 1901.  The Democrats appointed their Whip until 1986 and since then the position has been an elected one.  The Whip, and an official whip organization, was first ‘extensively’ used in the 1930’s, when Democrats chose ‘assistant whips’ to be responsible for Members from specified geographic regions.

When Congressman Clyburn assumes this esteemed position, there will be several events to mark the occasion. The National Urban League is hosting a reception in his honor on the evening of Wednesday, January 3, 2007. On January 4th, the morning of the Swearing-In, Congressman Clyburn will participate in a Bi-Partisan Interfaith Prayer Service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Washington. He will read the Prayer of Cesar Chavez during the service.

Congressman Clyburn will then accept a whip being presented by outgoing Majority Whip Roy Blunt at an 11:00 a.m. ceremony in the Majority Whip’s conference room at the U.S. Capitol Building, which will take place during an Open House hosted by Congressman Clyburn in his new office. That will be followed by the official swearing-in ceremony for the 116th Congress on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives at 12:00 noon.

"This will be an historic moment for the country, South Carolina, and for me and my family," Congressman Clyburn concluded. "I am humbled to be part of history, and look forward to contributing to a more effective and responsive U.S. House of Representatives."

Prior to being elected Majority Whip, Congressman Clyburn served as Chair and Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Co-President of his Freshman Class.

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