18 November 2009

Another Milestone for Byrd

(Official File Photo)

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd became the longest-serving member in that chamber's history in June 2006. But Wednesday marks an additional endurance record for the West Virginia Democrat (who turns 92 on Friday).

Byrd has become history's longest serving member of Congress. His three terms in the U.S. House combine with this nine in the Senate (also a record) for a total of 20,774 days on Capitol Hill.

That beats the record previously set by Carl Hayden, D-Ariz., who served in the House and then the Senate from 1912 to 1969, The Associated Press reports.

AP also offers this observation:
The arc of Byrd's story is more complex than the numbers would suggest. It's been long enough for him to rescind positions that he once trumpeted, such as his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lengthy enough to voice his regret, over and over, about joining the Ku Klux Klan a lifetime ago. Long enough to see and cheer the nation's first black president and to watch his one-time rival and later dear friend, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., succumb to brain cancer.
AP offers a video and slide show as well.

The U.S. Senate plans to begin a tribute to Byrd at 9:30 a.m., with C-SPAN offering coverage.

C-SPAN has also posted video from its 2005 interview with the senator, and of a weekend interview with Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University.

Gov. Joe Manchin is helping to headline a 3 p.m. ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda (where the only statue is of Byrd), and has invited West Virginians to mark the occasion.

West Virginia's Republican Party calls the milestone "more proof we need term limits."

The state GOP has also encouraged opponents of federal health care legislation show up at the 3 p.m. Capitol tribute and make their feelings known.

But the Republicans in the House of Delegates present for Tuesday's special session helped to endorse unanimously a Manchin-proposed resolution honoring Byrd (roll call not yet available, but all 100 delegates remain its co-sponsors).

The state Senate is expected to vote on the measure Wednesday.

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