Main | Monday, June 28, 2010

Sen. Robert Byrd Dies At 92

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has died at the age of 92. Byrd was the longest-serving U.S. Senator in history and was first elected in 1959.
Mr. Byrd’s perspective on the world changed over the years. He filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War only to come to back civil rights measures and criticize the Iraq war. Rating his voting record in 1964, Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal lobbying group, found that his views and the organization’s were aligned only 16 percent of the time. In 2005, he got an A.D.A. rating of 95. Mr. Byrd’s political life could be traced to his early involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, an association that almost thwarted his career and clouded it intermittently for years afterward. In the early 1940s, he organized a 150-member klavern, or chapter, of the Klan in Sophia, W.Va., and was chosen its leader at a meeting. After the meeting, Joel L. Baskin, the Klan’s grand dragon for the region, suggested that Mr. Byrd use his “talents for leadership” by going into politics. “Suddenly, lights flashed in my mind!” Mr. Byrd later wrote. “Someone important had recognized my abilities.”
How and when Byrd will be replaced in the Senate is unclear.
West Virginia law states that if there is a Senate vacancy more than two and a half years before the incumbent's term ends, a special election would be called for this November. That two and a half year mark is July 3 -- four days from now. But, as the Post's Paul Kane notes, the language of the law is unclear as it sets up a schedule that would begin the special election process after the "primary next", meaning, according to Democrats, in the spring of 2012. Such a schedule would place the special election in November 2012 when Byrd's 9th term would have ended anyway. The decision of how to read the law will almost certainly come down to Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat and the person seen as the most likely long term successor to Byrd in the Senate. And, either way, Manchin will be required to appoint someone to serve out Byrd's term -- whether it is determined that the term ends this fall or in the fall of 2012.

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