16 June 2009

Byrd Watching

Starting physical therapy as he recovers from a serious infection, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., may leave the hospital soon but does not expect to return to Capitol Hill this week, The Associated Press and others report, citing a release from his office.

The Hill is among those with updates on the 91-year-old Byrd, history's longest-serving U.S. senator. It observes that he "was initially hospitalized on May 15 for a 'minor infection,' and later developed a staph infection while undergoing treatment."

But that Beltway newspaper is also among those citing a column item from The Charleston Gazette this weekend, which said that Byrd's health "has prompted some quiet, behind-the-scenes discussions in the event the senator is unable to return to office."

The Gazette reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., discussed "contingencies" with Gov. Joe Manchin and state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey during a conference call last week.

"Casey is generally regarded as the consensus choice to serve as a placeholder for Byrd's Senate seat in the event Byrd would have to step down prior to the 2010 elections," the column said.

Others picking up the item include Political Wire as well as Politico, which said it "set off a mini-firestorm."

But the latter also follows-up by reporting Tuesday that Reid "confirmed that he spoke to Manchin — but not about replacing Byrd."

"When asked if the possibility of Byrd having to step down was discussed, Reid replied: 'No, we’ve acknowledged he’s sick. That’s the size of it,'" that article said.

Politico also spoke to Manchin Chief of Staff Larry Puccio, who said that Manchin and Reid spoke "'eight or 10 days ago,' one on one. The pair discussed 'how Sen. Byrd was doing and matters before the Senate' that affected the state, he added."

The Gazette also has another article Tuesday. It reports on the update from Byrd's office and the physical therapy news as well as on his request to his successor as chair of Senate Appropriations, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "to help promote the new Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which proposes a 7 percent spending increase."

No comments: