Byrd Leaves Appropriations Committee
Robert Byrd stepped down from the Appropriations Committee, on which he has served FIFTY YEARS, citing his advanced age. He’s being replaced by relative whippersnapper Daniel Inouye, a sprightly 84.
“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven,” said Byrd, who had fended off earlier challenges this past spring and summer. “Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life. I have been privileged to be a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for 50 years and to have chaired the committee for ten years, during a time of enormous change in our great country, both culturally and politically,” Byrd continued in a statement released by his office. “I have learned that nothing is quite so permanent as change. It is simply a part of living and should not be feared.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who is 84, will take over for Byrd on the powerful panel, which oversees hundreds of billions of dollars annually in federal spending. Byrd will officially hand off the gavel on Jan. 6, 2009.
Byrd’s announcement today provides a graceful ending for him and Democrats to what had become an increasingly tense situation over his ability to manage the panel given his age and failing health. After protecting Byrd earlier this year from calls for his ouster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been prepared to force the issue, when the party met to organize for the 111th Congress this month, but had always hoped that the chairman would act voluntarily first without being pushed.
I’m not sure jumping knowing that you’ll be pushed if you don’t quite counts as “act[ing] voluntarily first” but I’m sure Reid will take it.
It’s mildly amusing that his valedictory used words that most people recognize, not from Ecclesiastes, as a folk song popularized by the Byrds before I was born but after he joined the Appropriations Committee.
And, goodness, half a century is long enough to keep any job.