Robert Byrd, 1917-2010
Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), the longest-serving member of Congress in US history, died earlier this morning at a Virginia hospital. He was 92.
Politico leads off with Byrd’s rise through West Virginia and his time in the Ku Klux Klan before endorsing President Obama. They follow up with a collection of remembrances from the Senate, including Mitch McConnell:
“Sen. Byrd combined a devotion to the U.S. Constitution with a deep learning of history to defend the interests of his state and the traditions of the Senate. We will remember him for his fighter’s spirit, his abiding faith, and for the many times he recalled the Senate to its purposes.”
There are currently no plans for Byrd’s funeral, but a successor will be chosen shortly.
The New York Times leads off with the health care debate and Senator Byrd’s condition:
Mr. Byrd’s death comes as Senate Democrats are working to pass the final version of the financial overhaul bill and win other procedural battles in the week before the Independence Day recess. In the polarized atmosphere of Washington, President Obama’s agenda seemed to hinge on Mr. Byrd’s health. Earlier this year, in the final days of the health care debate, the ailing senator was pushed onto the Senate floor in his plaid wheelchair so he could cast his votes.
The Charleston Gazette brings up Senator Byrd’s infamous bid to move the CIA offices and reaction to being named Porker Of The Year in 2002 by Citizens Against Government Waste (“Such criticism rolled off me like water from a duck’s back,” Byrd wrote in his autobiography.)
At The Takeaway, Senator Byrd’s defiant and poetic attitude is clearly summed up in an exchange outside the Senate:
Once during the height of the Iraq War, Byrd slowly passed through a group of reporters on his way to the Senate floor. I remember him stopping, turning toward us and wagging his finger. “The Fourth Estate. The Fourth Estate! Defenders of liberty!” he shouted as he shot his index finger into the air. “Defend it,” he said, as he looked at each of us. “Defend it.”