The longest serving member of the U.S. Senate died early Monday morning. Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd, W. Va., was 92, and he had been hospitalized since last week.
President Barack Obama said it means the Senate “has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason.” As one of the top lawmakers in the country, serving as Senate Majority Leader for several years, Byrd was known for his throwback to an earlier era of the Senate as well as for securing federal money for projects in West Virginia.
The Associated Press’ Andrew Taylor has a full story about Byrd’s death and how national leaders reacted to the news; it’s definitely worth a read to learn more about his legacy after holding the Senate seat for more than 50 years.
Members of Congress from Minnesota and North Dakota also reacted to word of Byrd’s death; below are the statements I was e-mailed on Monday.
Sen. Byron Dorgan
“I’m deeply saddened by Senator Byrd’s death last evening. He was a friend and colleague, and more than that he was a legendary U.S. Senator who will be remembered as one of the great Senators in the history of the institution.
“Senator Byrd loved his state of West Virginia. He came from a humble beginning before becoming one of the most powerful U.S. Senators.
“Those of us that have had the privilege of serving with him will sorely miss Senator Robert C. Byrd.”
Sen. Al Franken
“During these last few months, Senator Byrd wasn’t able to spend as much time in the Senate buildings as he wanted. But whether he was here or not, his influence was felt by all of us. We felt his dedication to the office, and the people of West Virginia, every time he came to vote despite the increasing hardship of making the trek. I remember knowing we could count on him to be there, even on Christmas, even in the snow.
“I didn’t get to serve long with Senator Byrd, but I always appreciated how friendly he was, and how when he asked for order in the chamber, everyone listened to him. As a freshman newcomer, it seemed like quite the power.
“I remember the speech he gave at the beginning of the Iraq war. It was a powerful statement about the overwhelming silence of that time. I’m grateful to have gotten to thank him personally for saying the things he said.
“I’m honored to have served my first year with Senator Byrd. He will be missed, but his legacy is permanent."
Sen. Kent Conrad:
“Lucy and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd. For more than five decades, Senator Byrd fought tirelessly for the people of West Virginia. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Senate procedure. And though he would go on to lead the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee for more than two decades, Senator Byrd never forgot where he came from nor who he represented. His knowledge and his spirit will be missed.
“Senator Byrd will be missed greatly. However, we are comforted in knowing that our friend Robert is now reunited with his beloved wife, Erma.”