RIP, Senator Robert Byrd

The USA Today reports that the Senate’s longest serving member has passed away at the age of 92:

WASHINGTON β€” Sen. Robert Byrd, who rose from West Virginia’s impoverished hollows to aid, counsel and sometimes chastise presidents from the Senate seat he occupied for more than a half-century, died early Monday morning. He was 92 and had served in Congress longer than anyone in the nation’s history.

The veteran Democrat died at 3 a.m. at a suburban Washington hospital, Byrd’s office announced. He had been in failing health recently but in May appeared at a hearing on mine safety, a sign of his continuing dedication to the coal miners of his home state.

Though he was a fierce partisan, Byrd’s courtly manners and devotion to the Senate won him the bipartisan affection of his colleagues.

“We will remember him for his fighter’s spirit, his abiding faith, and for the many times he recalled the Senate to its purposes,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Byrd’s Democratic colleague from West Virginia, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said: “He leaves a void that can simply never be filled.”

A master of the Senate’s arcane rules, and a prolific chronicler of its history, Byrd fiercely defended Congress’ prerogatives against those of the executive branch. “I have served with 11 presidents. I serve under no president,” Byrd liked to say.

Byrd’s death deprives President Obama of a staunch ally and could complicate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts to push financial regulation legislation through this week.

I know Byrd had a decidedly checkered history both in Congress and out of it, but I’d like to think that as he got older he moved beyond his racist beliefs. My gut feeling tells me that he did, but then again, he doesn’t have to answer to me now on that or anything else, but instead to someone else, so that conversation will be between Byrd and Him.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

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