According to Wiki, Democrats have a majority in the Senate of the 117th United States Congress despite only having 48 seats. Why are the two independent senators being counted as Democrats? Please explain it at a level for a non-US resident to understand.

1 Answer 1


The current US Senate includes two Independent Senators who do not belong to either party but Caucus, which means to align with for counting purposes, with the Democrats.

The Independent Senators are Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

Despite being an Independent Senator, Bernie Sanders was in the Democratic Presidential Primary in 2016 and 2020.

This puts the Senate at 50/50. Adding Vice-president Kamala Harris to the Democratic side gives them a majority.

  • 9
    Good description. It's a bit like the situation in other countries who have a Parliamentary system. They have to form similar voting alliances, from a larger number of political parties. We don't see a similar situation in Congress much, due to the overwhelming dominance of the two largest parties.
    – Ron Ruble
    Feb 14, 2021 at 18:14
  • 41
    Worth noting that practically, they're aligned for more than just counting purposes: they are usually more reliable votes for Democratic priorities than some Senators who are actual members of the Democratic Party. They end up being Democrats in all but name rather than those who have entered into an alliance or a coalition. Feb 14, 2021 at 21:55
  • 8
    @ZachLipton and it's also an arrangement that puts Sander's in line for a Chairmanship of the budget committee. It's clearly a fairly solid link.
    – Jontia
    Feb 14, 2021 at 22:08
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    @RonRuble Although to be fair, in such countries (e.g. the UK) you would not claim that the main party has a majority. Rather, you would describe it as a coalition.
    – JBentley
    Feb 15, 2021 at 12:43
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    @PeterCordes Calling it "disconnected from English" is a bit of an overreaction. Schumer is the leader of the majority caucus, which yes, is 50-50 but becomes the majority based on the VP in their constitutional role as President of the Senate. Feb 16, 2021 at 18:19

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