Monday, June 28, 2010
Senator Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving member of the Senate died early this morning. He was 92, and had held his seat since 1959.I extend my condolences to his family.
There's apparently some confusion on filling the seat. According to West Virginia law, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term ends, a special election is supposed to be held to fill the seat. There were exactly two years, six months and five days left in Byrd's term when he died.
This could open a legal challenge,prevent current Governor Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from just appointing a successor and force a special election this November, similar to the ones in Delaware and New York to fill the seats vacated by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton.
Byrd's death also leaves the future of President Obama's so-called financial reform bill up in the air, because it's unclear now whether the Democrats have enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster to pass it without being able to wheel the late Senator Byrd into the Senate chambers. Four Republicans - Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Susan Collins of Maine and Charles Grassley of Iowa - initially voted for the Senate version of the bill in May, but two Democrats - Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin - voted against both cloture to end debate and the bill itself.
Meanwhile, Brown was quoted as having changed his mind after seeing the House version, which slaps $19 billion in bank fees on financial institutions and raises not only consumer costs but taxes.
There's also a time factor involved, because of the July 4th recess that's just around the corner.
An interesting end to a long and interesting career!