Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Byrd dies

Robert Byrd dies

A day after announcements he was "seriously ill," West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd has died. I'm woefully underqualified to eulogize the longest serving member of COngress in history, but I will say that few people have journeyes so far, from old-school Southern politics to fierce war opposition. And no one had more pride in and respect for the institution of the Senate.

I hate to trivialize Byrd's death with the pragmatics, but they're a political reality. Nate Silver has the details on West Virginia law and it seems we're very close to the deadline on whether a special election takes place this year or in the next general election in 2010, when Byrd's ninth term (!) runs out anyway. The governor, Joe Manchin, is a term-limited Democrat and fairly popular, but of course West Virginia is a counter-trend state: Dukakis in `88, McCain in `08.

Update: WV Sec of State says that since it's after the primary, no special till 2012. Manchin, who's known to have Senate thoughts, says he won't self-appoint so expect a placeholder. WV governor is on the presidential year cycle, so Manchin's second and limited term ends, conveniently, in `12. My prediction is the Ted Kaufman style play: a high level Byrd staffer who offers some sort of continuity, if not the 51 years of seniority.

More trivia: The Senate seniority list looks very different than it did just two years ago. In those 24 months, five of the six most senior senators have left: Byrd and Ted Kennedy to mortality, Ted Stevens defeated, Pete Domenici to semi-voluntary retirement, and Joe Biden to the vice presidency. Only Daniel Inouye of Hawaii remains.

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