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Byrd Surrenders Senate Approps Gavel


Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., presides over a committee hearing on Sept. 26, 2007 (AP)

By Ben Pershing

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) announced today that he would voluntarily give up the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after 20 years as the panel's top Democrat. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) will take over the gavel.

"A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing," Byrd said in a statement released by his office. "For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009."

Byrd's decision saves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) from having to force the 90-year-old Senate legend from stepping aside. Beloved as he is by colleagues, Byrd's myriad health problems and increasingly shaky performance as chairman had earlier this year prompted some of his fellow Democrats to begin pushing for a change atop the powerful spending panel.

Byrd's frailty has meant that he was often unable to handle key tasks required by the chairmanship in this Congress. Individual subcommittee chairs have handled an increased workload, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has regularly been tapped to manage spending bills on the floor. Negotiations with the House and White House that would normally have been led by Byrd have instead often been handled by the leadership.

The chairmanship may be changing hands, but that doesn't mean the Appropriations agenda will be markedly different. Like Byrd, Inouye is a Senate veteran who is protective of the committee's institutional prerogatives and of Senators' ability to bring home the bacon. Byrd is famous (or infamous) for allocating massive amounts of federal money to West Virginia, and Inouye has also been successful at steering funds to his native Hawaii.

Byrd does plan to remain on the committee -- he will chair the Homeland Security subcommittee -- and in the Senate for as long as he is able. His full statement is after the jump.

*************************************

STATEMENT OF SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD (D-W.Va.)

November 7, 2008

"To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven."

Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.

I have been blessed to have had the honor to represent the people of West Virginia in the United States Senate for 50 years. I have been honored to lead the Senate as its Majority Leader for 12 years.

I have been privileged to be a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for 50 years and to have chaired the Committee for ten years, during a time of enormous change in our great country, both culturally and politically. I have learned that nothing is quite so permanent as change. It is simply a part of living and should not be feared. To be serving in the Senate at such a momentous time in our history fills me with enormous pride. I endorsed President-elect Obama because I believed that we had taken the wrong course both at home and abroad. I am delighted with his victory. I was an early critic of the war in Iraq, as was the President-elect, who decried this war even before he was running for a United States Senate seat. I wish our new President every success with his commitment to unite us as one people.


A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009.

I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate. I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.

God willing, I will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee. I will continue to chair the Homeland Security Subcommittee, and I will work to help my state and the people of our great country in those roles.

Senator Daniel Inouye has stood in line for many years and now his time has come. He is my friend. He is a genuine American hero. He will be a skillful and fair Chairman of the Appropriations Committee because he is a man of outstanding character and great wisdom.

I thank my colleagues and the staff on the Committee for their dedicated work and their years of support in challenging times. I thank the people of West Virginia for continuing to put their faith in me. I thank God for the long life He has granted me and for the opportunity He has given me to assist this great country through long service in this magnificent institution, the United States Senate. I look forward to the years ahead and to making a contribution to a better, stronger America. No mortal could ask for more."

By Ben Pershing  |  November 7, 2008; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , Purse Strings , Senate  
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Comments

At last...but not before a decade of waste and billions funneled to Byrd's buddies for worthless pork projects.

Posted by: WestCoastSkeptic | November 7, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Good job replacing a 90-year-old with an 86-year-old.

Posted by: rdpinva | November 7, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Senator Byrd should have retired long ago. He is a "Pork" champion along with Murtha from PA and the now criminal from Alaska. The three are disgraceful examples of
of why Pork should be stopped.

Posted by: jacksplat1 | November 7, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Good job replacing a 90-year-old with an 84-year-old.

Posted by: rdpinva | November 7, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

We shall not see his like again -- if we are lucky.

Posted by: pali2500 | November 7, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Byrd can't leave the committee yet due to unfinished business -- getting the federal government to pay for the remaining square miles of West Virginia to be paved over and named for him.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | November 7, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Another change they should make is to change who becomes President Pro Tem of the senate. That person is 3rd in line for the presidency after the VP and house speaker. By tradition, the most senior member of the majority is elected to that post. Right now that's Bobby Byrd.

Posted by: nomad_990 | November 7, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"Byrd can't leave the committee yet due to unfinished business -- getting the federal government to pay for the remaining square miles of West Virginia to be paved over and named for him."

West Virginia was created out of Virginia territory in the heat of the Civil War as a reward for their loyalty in the struggle against slavery; this week the people of that state embarassed themselves by turning in an obviously racist rejection of the country's first black president. Byrd is a hero for having hung in there so long to hold a seat until the Bushies could be ejected and as far as I'm concerned, were it not for Lincoln's spirit still hanging over this event, I would say let's pave over the rest of it ...

Posted by: razzl | November 7, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

For all who are slamming Byrd's steering of appropriations to WV - as a native of the state, let me clue you in - WV is in VERY sorry shape economically, and has been for decades (if not always). Without Byrd's advocacy and assistance, the state would be in even more of a hole. The senator has been doing exactly what he was elected to do - looking out for the interests of his constituents, who need all the help they can get.

Posted by: greenlight1 | November 7, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

"...this week the people of that state embarassed themselves by turning in an obviously racist rejection of the country's first black president. "
Posted by: razzl | November 7, 2008 3:39 PM
___________________________________________

Why is it obviously racist? They may very well have thought McCain was the better choice for them. Who are you to say?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | November 7, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

obviously racist? I wonder about Appalachia and the fact that it is one clear stripe of the country that went more strongly Republican than four years ago. Doesn't mean they're all racist, but perhaps more than average?

As for pork to WV, greenlight1 has a point. A large portion of the pork that gets derided is actually well-spent money. The real problem is in the standard appropriations system, in which good spending measures get shot down for ideological or political reasons. The current system is a wreck. Maybe a ban on earmarks will help. I suspect they will just find some other way to hide the spending rather than reforming the appropriations charade.

Posted by: ath28 | November 7, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

He only evacuated federal workers to West Virginia for their own protection ...particularly given the DC crime rate during the Barry administration

Hopefuly somebody in the media will do a better job covering the "PILLAGE and PLUNDER" plan the Democrats have for our 401k accounts. Some actual accurate, hardhitting, and timely reporting would be helpful here

Posted by: SlovenianWonder | November 8, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Hawaii says THANKS! Send Pork ASAP.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | November 9, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Although not a native, I have lived in West Virginia for over three decades. My loyalty to this state is real. That said, I have not lost my objectivity.

On balance, having Robert C. Byrd in the Senate has been good for us West Virginians, but despite what many of you who have denounced him may think, having RCB in the Senate has been good for the country! Why? He has been a steadfast champion of the constitution and of the Senate. He had the political testosterone to stand up to Bush and Cheney and that despicable bunch when few others did so.

So you don't like the pork RCB brought to West Virginia? OK, SOME pork is bad, but most (by far) of the federal money spent here has had positive effects not only for WV but for the region. And federal pork here thanks to RCB has been a meager reparation for the systematic economic rape of West Virginia perpetrated for well over a century by those capitalists who exploited our resources without reinvesting more than a pittance here. By that measure, not even RCB managed to even that score.

It's the right time for RCB to yield his place, maybe past time by some measures. Frankly, I'll be surprised if he survives his term, but I hope he does. My gratitude to him is real, and not just because I live in WV. Would that we had more statesmen like him. Rock on, RCB.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | November 10, 2008 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me greenlight but I beg to differ. Byrd's job as a US Senator, no matter what the state, should be country first and state second. Although I'm sure that a fair amount of the money Byrd shuttled back to WV was spent on useful projects, were they the best expenditure of that money - either in the US or even WV. Yes, I know, I am talking like an idealist rather than a realist as no one would get re-elected if they didn't take of their own but this country's days of back scratching and pork barrel politics will be forced to end now. Not because Obama's in the white house but because there will be no real money to pass around. The problems we face will need to be solved at a national level. West Virginians are a hearty bunch. They need to solve their local issues now just like everybody else does and leave the federal dollars to fund the creation of jobs or the re-tooling of current jobs to get people working - people everywhere, not just WV, Michigan or any place else.

Posted by: saxahydros | November 11, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Its hard enough in your 50's keeping up with the younger people especially as the pace of life speeds up.
How on earth can anyone in their 90's really have their finger on the pulse.

As you get older you tend to look back more and no matter how open you are to suggestion your decisions will always be based on your experience earlier in life.

Sometimes your decisions will be wrong simply because they are based on old data and ideas that were perfectly correct 30 years ago but know no longer apply.

It s time now to thank all these older members and put them out to pasture.

Posted by: akpat | November 11, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I say it's time for Byrd to go. His time has long passed. He, of the KKK in his early days; he, who studiously avoided the draft during World War II; he, who said upon the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that he brought it on himself; he, the master of having nearly every public building in WV named Byrd something or other. Let's turn the page.

However there is poetic justice after all. Byrd will stand and applaud the 44th President of the United States when he delivers the State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress. He, who contemplated a ran for President in 1976 and coveted that office, will now stand and applaud a black man as President.

How wonderful!

Posted by: dantaylor1033 | November 12, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Senator Byrd is one of the last, if not the last, true statesmen! My thanks to him for all that he has done for West Virginia and the United States of America.

Posted by: WVnative | November 12, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Please explain why it is "obvious racism" for a white person to vote for a white person AND NOT obvious racism when a black person does so?

Posted by: rwings | November 12, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I am one liberal that likes the idea of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. I think they will compliment an Obama administration quite nicely, thank you. Now that the Democrats have purged some of the old guard neocons from congress, they should seriously think of politely escorting some of their own to the door. This might open up Congress so that they can really effect positive change for the people. Hope we get rid of Stevens, Coleman and Chambliss!

Posted by: nwsjnky1 | November 13, 2008 3:45 AM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: diana9 | November 13, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: diana9 | November 13, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The major condition for Byrd to step down was that the committee be redesignated the Robert Byrd Memorial Appropriations Committee.

Posted by: gagkk | November 13, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: diana9 | November 14, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: diana9 | November 14, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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