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Out of the Picture

When senators gathered on the chamber floor Tuesday for their official annual photo dressed in their finest, hair combed and all smiles, a number of senators were noticeably asbsent: the three presidential candidates -- Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- and ailing Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who was back home fending off a bitter Democratic primary challenger, also missed the photo.

It may have been the first time, or certainly one of very few times, that the nonagenarian Byrd missed the official Senate photo. His office couldn't be sure, and neither the Senate historian nor the Capitol historian (or the Senate library) had a record of attendance for the photos. A traditionalist who reveres the rules as well as the ceremonial pomp and circumstance of the venerable chamber, the West Virginia senator would surely have been there front and center Tuesday, wearing his three-piece suit, the chain of his antique gold pocket watch dangling from his vest.

Instead, Byrd, 90, the longest-serving senator, was in Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was admitted Monday with a fever, on the same day Kennedy, the second longest-serving senator, underwent successful brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

The bad news for Byrd and the other senators who missed the photo is that, unlike in years past when their faces were sometimes Photoshopped back into the portrait, there will be no Photoshopping this year.

"The picture is a portrait of the moment," says Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance W. Gainer. "It would not be easy and it would look hokey."

But the good news for Democrats who made the photo session is that they will be front and center in the portrait, since the Democratic leadership, which controls the chamber, ordered this year's photo be taken from the west side of the chamber - the side on which Democrats sit.

Read more behind-the-scenes moments on Capitol Hill, check out today's "On the Hill" column, written by yours truly and her dear colleague Paul Kane, in the In the Loop page of the Post newspaper.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 5, 2008; 9:24 AM ET
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Byrd should just die and get it overwith, there are scores of West Virginia inbreeds waiting to move up the ladder

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Now all he needs to do is find a good VP. This site holds a Vice President Poll every week, so you can see what America thinks. Just visit:

and help your favorite candidate choose his/her running mate. They started a VP poll last week, and the results from that poll have just been posted. This poll is honest and represents all of America.

Posted by: egrecal | June 6, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Since this article has only two posts in four days, this one is likely to be ignored, but here goes:

To the author of "Byrd should just die and get it overwith, there are scores of West Virginia inbreeds waiting to move up the ladder:"
Your startling insensitivity and ignorance are appalling, but little matter. As a West Virginian who has applauded Robert C. Byrd's courageous defense of the Constitution (which accounted in a significant way to his opposition to the invasion of Iraq), I hope RCB's health DOES enable him to finish his last term, although I wonder if that will be possible. His replacement, I hope, will be another thoughtful and courageous statesman. As to the family trees of those West Virginians waiting to move up the ladder, they quite obviously branch as much or more than yours does. Wallow in your thoughtless, needless, stereotypes if you will, but have the courtesy to shut up, because you obviously have nothing positive to offer.

Posted by: old white male democrat in Appalachia | June 9, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Little chance this will be read by anybody, but here goes anyway:

To the author of the "Byrd should just die . ..." post:

It's clear to me that Robert C. Byrd is far less deserving of death than you. Your callousness and ignorance are appalling, but no matter, you're done no worse than Dick Cheney . . .

As a West Virginian who has been proud of RCB's defense of the Constitution, opposition to the Iraq war, and many other instances of statesmanship, it is my fear that his powers may not last his entire term, even if his life does. In any event, whenever he is succeeded, West Virginia and the nation will be lucky if he is replaced by someone of equal ability. As for those "inbreeds waiting to move up the ladder," any one of them is likely to be more worthy than you.

Posted by: old white male democrat in Appalachia | June 9, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

West Virginia is proud of Sheets

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah yeah yeah, keep the chimp out of the picture, we get it, move on.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Byrd is senile, he should be in a home for the mentally impaired. No doubt there already are a half dozen Robert Byrd Sanitariums in West Virginia built with the usual pork funds

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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