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In U.S. politics, the minority leader is the floor leader of the second largest caucus in a legislative body. Given the two-party nature of the U.S. system, the minority leader is almost inevitably either a Republican or a Democrat, with the counterpart being a member of the opposite party. The position is essentially that of the Leader of the Opposition. In bicameral legislatures, the counterpart to the minority leader in the lower house is often the Speaker and the majority leader is hence only the second-most senior member of the majority caucus, whereas in the upper house the titular Speaker is often a separately-elected officer such as a lieutenant governor and the majority leader may in fact be the single most powerful member of the majority caucus. The minority leader is often assisted in his/her role by one or more whips, whose job is to enforce party discipline on votes deemed to be crucial by the party leadership and to ensure that members do not vote against the position of the party leaders. Some votes are deemed to be so crucial as to lead to punitive measures for members who violate the party line; decisions such as these are often made by the minority leader in conjunction with other senior party leaders. (via Freebase)