WV Sen. Robert Byrd Dead at 92
June 28th, 2010
The senior statesman of the U.S. Senate, West Virginia’s Sen. Robert Byrd (D) has died at 3 a.m. this morning. The conservative Democrat was the longest serving member of Congress. He was elected to the Senate in 1958 for the first of nine terms. He had served six years in Congress before that.
Sen. Byrd was hospitalized last week for what was thought to be heat exhaustion, but his health continued to decline over the weekend.
According to the New York Times obituary:
But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”
He lived that poverty growing up in mining towns, and it fueled his ambition. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” (West Virginia University Press, 2005), “it has been my constant desire to improve the lives of the people who have sent me to Washington time and time again.”
Byrd’s commitment to improve the lives of LGBT West Virginians, however, was considerably lower in priority. President Clinton wrote in his autobiography, “My Life, that Byrd’s 1993 opposition to gays in the military was stronger than that of Sen. Sam Nunn, the man who is credited for being the driving force behind institutionalizing the ban in federal law. In the 109th Congress, Byrd scored a 22% on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard. In the current 110th Congress, Byrd’s score increased to 60% with his votes for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the his support for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
According to West Virginia law, Byrd’s successor will be appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin III (D). Ambiguities in the law make it unclear as to whether a special election will be required before Byrd’s term ends in 2012.
Byrd endorsed DADT compromise with additional sixty day implementation delay
May 26th, 2010
Senator Byrd has released the following statement:
U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement announcing that he will vote for a compromise amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Byrd worked successfully with interested parties to include some additional language that would give Congress an additional 60 days to thoroughly review the implementation policy once certified:
“I did not want to blindly assent to repealing this law without giving the Congress an opportunity to re-examine the concerns of our Armed Forces and the manner in which they are being addressed.”
“Therefore, I worked with the Senate and House Leadership, Senators Lieberman and Levin, Congressman Murphy, the Administration and the Department of Defense to include a provision in the proposed compromise amendment that would delay the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for 60 days after receipt of the findings of the Pentagon Review and the determination of the proposed policy and regulation changes.”
“This period of time will allow the Congress, along with the American people, to thoroughly review the proposed policy recommendations to ensure that these changes are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention for our Armed Forces.”
“With these changes, I will support the amendment expected to be offered by Senator Lieberman to the Department of Defense Authorization bill.
With Byrd’s promised vote, the bill now has more than the required votes for attachment to the Defense Authorization Bill and for passage out of committee.
It now appears that the timeline will be repeal of DADT language this week, completion of study by December 1, then some undefined period for drafting of policies to be followed by sixty days for Congressional review. I don’t know if there is a provision by which Congress would have to vote again, but this delays implementation until after the swearing in of the next Congress.