Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Robert C. Byrd dead at 92

Last year, we lost the Liberal Lion, Senator Ted Kennedy. Now, in the past 12 hours or so, we have lost West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd. Byrd should be remembered for his legacy in the United States Senate over the KKK views that he held at one point.

Byrd had two years remaining in his term. Democratic West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has the power to appoint an interim replacement until November's special election. That said, whoever runs to replace Byrd in the Senate has some awfully large shoes to fill in.

Byrd held virtually every major leadership post in the Senate, but he is perhaps best known for running the Appropriations Committee, which helped him build a reputation for funneling federal money to projects in his economically depressed home state of West Virginia. Anyone who has driven the scenic byways of West Virginia, visited the state's national parks or stopped by the federal courthouse in Charleston, W.Va., has borne witness to his power -- Byrd's name is everywhere.
Charleston Gazette:
Robert Carlyle Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress in United States history, who spent much of his career as a conservative Democrat and ended it by fiercely opposing the war in Iraq and questioning the state's powerful coal industry, died Monday. He was 92.

"I am saddened that the family of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., tearfully announces the passing" of the senator, Jesse Jacobs, Byrd's press spokesman, said in a statement.

Byrd died at 3 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., according to the statement.[...]

Byrd ran for state and national office 15 times and never lost. Once elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, he steadily advanced through the ranks. He was named majority whip in 1971 and majority leader in 1975. Democrats became the minority party in the Senate in 1981, but Byrd remained their leader until they regained control of the Senate in 1987.

In 1989, he was elected president pro tempore of the Senate -- a largely ceremonial post -- and named chairman of the Appropriations Committee. It was there that he began funneling federal projects and money to West Virginia in earnest. The first big salvo came in 1991, when FBI officials announced they would build their new fingerprint identification center just outside Clarksburg.[...]

In his autobiography, Byrd wrote of his membership in the KKK: "It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one's life, career, and reputation."[...]

As for the war in Iraq, Byrd's opposition began mostly over what he saw as the Bush administration's attempts to declare war without the approval of Congress.

He described the situation as another Gulf of Tonkin, referring to the 1964 resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without a formal congressional declaration of war. Byrd voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution -- and again, came to regret his vote.

In June 2002, several months before the invasion of Iraq, Byrd said on the Senate floor, "I have not seen such executive arrogance and secrecy since the Nixon administration, and we all know what happened to that group."

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