WASHINGTON — Rick Scott was sworn in as a U.S. senator Tuesday, five days late, so he could finish out his term as Florida governor.
The decision impacts his place in the Senate pecking order.
- Rick Scott sworn in Tuesday in US Senate chambers
- Scott loses seniority after delay due to finishing governor's term
- Seniority determines committee assignments, offices, more
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“It’s a strange situation," said Kyle Kondik, with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Kondik said the move could be an ongoing challenge for Scott, depending on how long he decides to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Scott will lose three places in seniority as a result of the delay, meaning he'll arrive in the nation's capital as the most junior incoming senator.
“Historically you see governors leaving office early so they can get to Congress potentially a few days early," Kondik said. "There have been some instances of that, where maybe the previous member would resign and allow the other person to take office a few days earlier in order to accumulate seniority."
Why is seniority important? It plays a major role in committee assignments, office space, the seating chart on the Senate floor and eventually chairmanships. Some are questioning the move, especially because the governor’s schedule has been looking pretty open over the last few weeks.
“It’s not like there’s some kind of huge crisis that he’s really dealing with back home. I don’t quite understand it," Kondik said.
During his run for Senate, Scott campaigned on a platform of reforming Washington, including imposing term limits. But his decision is something experts say may foreshadow possible intentions of seeking higher office.
“Potentially he could be a candidate for president in six years, as opposed to running for re-election in the Senate in 2024. And maybe in that instance seniority doesn’t mean all that much to him," Kondik said.
Regardless of Scott’s motivation, some are applauding Scott's decision.
“I think it’s an honorable thing to finish out his term before coming to the Senate. Is that going to hurt his advancement to the Senate, I don’t think so?" said Mark Rom, an American politics and public policy professor at Georgetown University.
Ultimately, Kondik thinks the seniority problem won't be a game changer for Scott.
“I think Scott is going to be a prominent member of the Republican Senate Caucus regardless. He is a former governor, represents the most important swing state in the whole country. I would think that leadership would take care of him and look for ways to highlight him," Kondik explained.