Robert Byrd, the longest serving Senator in American history died yesterday in his 51st year in the Upper Chamber. He was elected in 1958, the sixth year of the Eisenhower Presidency. He's the only West Virginian to serve in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, the US House and the US Senate. He's also the only person ever to carry every county in a contested statewide race in the Mountaineer State. He's been Majority Leader, Minority Leader and President Pro Tem of the Senate as well as the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. There have been powerful senators since the founding of the nation (Dan Webster, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, Nelson Aldrich, Joseph Robinson, Lyndon Johnson, Howard Baker, et al) but few come close to the generational impact of Robert Byrd. A recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 he had a raw, angry interior that he used to take vengeance on enemies raal and imagined inside and outside of the Senate. The modern media praised his newfound liberalism and forgot his racist past, his devotion to pork barreling and his rambling, incoherent and personal attacks-especially on George W. Bush.
It looks as if there won't be a contested election in November of 2010 for his seat so if the Republicans want to run a strong candidate for the full term they can do it in 2012. As I've noted before that will be a tough year for Democrats anyway as they stand to lose a substantial number of seats nationwide and can't afford to fight for this one as well. However, their bench is deep, starting with their popular governor Joe Manchin who will probably run for the seat. However, whomever is the GOP candidate for President is that year, he (or she) will carry West Virginia by at least 12 if not 15 points so Manchin will have an uphill climb as Obama will not do well-especially now that he's pushing Cap and Trade which is universally reviled in the state.
The short-term impact is that the Banking bill that was agreed upon last weekend will be sent back to the Conference Committee because it doesn't have the votes to get by a GOP filibuster. Obama wanted it signed by July 4th but he's going to have to wait a while as tense negotiations will have to take place to peel off a couple Republicans to vote for cloture. I suspect strongly they'll get it but it may take until the August recess-time they don't have if they want to pass other major bills. The more time they spend (even if its just a few extra days) threatens to stuff a bunch of work into the rump session that will meet from the Monday after the election until just before Christmas. It is anyone's guess how much they'll get done before then but it is not out of the realm of possiblity that they'll not get the Banking bill or Cap and Trade done before the election. If that happens, they'll be several major items that will somehow need to get done-including the tax bill, the budget, immigration and DADT. It is hard to think that most of that would get through-at least in the way the Obama Administration wants it to so it will be very interesting to see what makes it and what's passed to the next Congress.