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NATIONAL BRIEFING / WASHINGTON, D.C.

Veteran senator quits key chairmanship

November 08, 2008|Times Wire Reports

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history, is stepping down from his post as chairman of the appropriations committee. The West Virginia Democrat, 90, has become increasingly frail; his decision didn't come as a surprise.

Byrd, who was first elected to the Senate in 1958, has been chairman or top minority member of the panel for two decades. Before that, he was the Senate's Democratic leader for 12 years.

He said it's time for new leadership on the committee, which has control over more than $1 trillion in federal agencies' budgets. Byrd will be replaced by Hawaii Democrat Daniel K. Inouye, 84. Byrd's move set off an avalanche of changes in Senate committee chairmanships. One result is that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will become chairwoman of the intelligence committee.

Byrd remains the Senate's president pro tempore, a largely symbolic post reserved for the longest-serving member of the majority party. It puts him third in the line of presidential succession after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

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