28 October 2008

Byrd Again in the Bulls-Eye? (Updated)

Citing "Democratic insiders," Politico reports today that "Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee."

Byrd, who turns 91 next month, "has been hospitalized several times in the past year, and Democratic senators and leadership aides say he is no longer capable of running the powerful Appropriations Committee," the article said.

Politico noted that such ouster speculation has dogged Byrd previously this year, adding that Reid, D-Nev., has previously supported his desire to remain chairman.

Now, the article said, Reid proposes that history's longest-serving U.S. senator "would become chairman emeritus, likely retaining coveted office space in the Capitol near the Senate floor," under Reid's alleged plan.

Fellow long-timer Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, would take over as chair, while Byrd "would also remain Senate president pro tempore, which leaves him third in line to the presidency even though his health now makes even routine public appearances both arduous and awkward," the article said.

Politico also observed that "Byrd traveled to Charleston last week to introduce Delaware Sen. Joe Biden at a morning rally, and he struggled to get through his written remarks — though his partisan spirit was still obvious, as was the home crowd’s affection for him."

Update: Byrd has responded, The Associated Press reports. "I am disappointed that, according to press accounts, the Majority Leader is talking to others about the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee," Byrd told AP in a statement. "This is the sort of Washington back-room gossip which ill serves the Democratic Party in a year when Democratic unity should be paramount."

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