Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia Dead

The longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, has died at the age of 92 after serving almost sixty years in public office.

Byrd was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3, 1953 and was elected to the U.S Senate six years later in 1958. In November, he broke the record for congressional service that had been set by Democrat Carl Hayden of Arizona, who served in the House and Senate from 1912 to 1969. Byrd was reelected to serve a ninth term in the Senate in 2006.

Byrd was in frail health and had used a wheelchair in recent months to go to the Senate floor to cast crucial votes, including final passage of health-care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Byrd went to the hospital late last week suffering from what was believed to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration as a result of the hot temperatures in Washington. Over the weekend Byrd's condition was reported as "seriously ill." Spokesman Jesse Jacobs said Byrd died peacefully overnight at about 3:00 a.m. in Inova Fairfax Hospital in suburban Washington.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, will appoint Byrd's successor on an interim basis pending a special election.

West Virginia State election law states that, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term is up, that a special election be held to fill the seat. However, that statute includes language stating the special election shall only occur after a candidate "has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected." West Virginia held its 2010 primary almost two months ago, so the statute can be interpreted as the "next" primary in 2012, before the general election in November, 2012. The wording of the statute could open a legal challenge to force a special election this November. Had Byrd lived another 6 days, the wording of the statute would not be an issue, because his passing would then have been less than 2 1/2 years until the end of his term. Democrats currently hold a nominal 59-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, including two Independents who caucus with Democrats.

A good biography on Byrd appears in today's edition of the The Washington Post.

No comments:

Post a Comment