Murray becomes first female president pro tempore in Senate

Vice President Kamala Harris gestures toward waiting family members as she participates in a ceremonial swearing-in of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., at left, with her husband Rob Murray, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Washington Sen. Patty Murray was elected to the Senate in 1992, she says, male senators treated her with some trepidation. But now she has outlasted almost all of them, becoming the first woman appointed president pro tempore — a senior member of the majority who presides over the Senate and is third in line to the presidency. 

She assumed the post upon the retirement of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who served almost five decades in the Senate and stood beside her as she was sworn in. 

The president pro tempore, a Latin term for “for the time being,” is specified in the Constitution as a replacement for the vice president, who also serves as the president of the Senate, when he or she cannot be present. In addition to opening the Senate on a daily basis, the president pro tempore has several lesser-known duties, such as administering oaths, signing legislation and making appointments to various national commissions and advisory boards. 

President Joe Biden, her Senate colleague for many years, tweeted, “We’re witnessing history on Capitol Hill.”