Robert Byrd RIP
The Senate has lost one of its legends with the death of Robert C. Byrd, an orphan child who married a coal miner’s daughter and rose from the hollows of West Virginia coal country to become the longest serving senator in U.S. history.
He died around 3 a.m. Monday morning after being admitted to the hospital last week for dehydration, yet his condition worsened over the weekend and he became critically ill. Byrd was 92.
What's the pickle? Nate Silver explained part of this prior to the passing of Senator Byrd:
Byrd’s current term expires on January 3, 2013. Under West Virginia state law on handling Senate vacancies, “if the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election”. Otherwise, Manchin would appoint an interim replacement, and an special election would be held in November to determine who held the seat in 2011 and 2012.
In other words, we are within a week of the threshold established by West Virginia law. If a vacancy were to be declared on July 3rd or later, there would not be an election to replace Byrd until 2012. If it were to occur earlier, there could potentially be an election later this year, although there might be some ambiguities arising from precisely when and how the vacancy were declared.
That's just part of the problem, and that one lies at the feet of Governor Manchin. Granted, as Captain Ed notes, Manchin wanted that seat for himself. ABC News reports that Manchin has to declare the seat vacant, and if the voters in West Virginia don't raise a big stink about it then he can take his time.
However, the longer this takes that means Harry Reid has one less vote in the Senate. And should Barry apply pressure to Manchin to name a replacement, he would be interfering in a state matter. It is up to the governor, and the governor is going to want to appoint the seemingly best person to the position (not so good he couldn't take the seat himself at a later date, of course), but at least someone who has a clue as to what they're doing (unlike Roland Burris).
As for kind words on his passing? I really don't have a lot of them. The man was an embarrassment to the Democrat party. He was a former recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, and had a history rife with racism. It wasn't until his later years when he apologized for that past, and admitted that today's world had no room for those views. He was also an embarrassment when it came to his self-described classification of being the "constitutional expert" in the Senate. I could care less about his four-volume set of books on the Constitution, the man didn't know squat about the document. He was a pork-barrel spender for the state of West Virginia, so much so that the taxpayers of his state raised a statue in his honor.
The man should have retired decades ago. Our condolences to the remaining family he has, but we have little else to offer in terms of kind words. We didn't like the man, and didn't believe he should have been lauded the way most Democrats did.