June 28th, 2010
09:10 AM ET
4 years ago

Timing of Byrd's passing will affect successor's term

The flag flies at half staff at the Capitol building on Monday following the death of Sen. Robert Byrd. There is confusion about the process that will be used to fill his seat.
The flag flies at half staff at the Capitol building on Monday following the death of Sen. Robert Byrd. There is confusion about the process that will be used to fill his seat.

Washington (CNN) - The timing of Sen. Robert Byrd's death is contributing to confusion about filling the remainder of his term.

Under West Virginia law, Gov. Joe Manchin has the power to appoint a successor. Since Manchin, a popular two-term governor, is a Democrat, it's expected he will name a fellow member of his party to succeed Byrd, who was also a Democrat, thereby keeping Democrats' caucus in the Senate at 59 seats.

But questions surround how long Byrd's appointed successor would serve before another election is held.

West Virginia law also says that if the "unexpired term of any other office named in this section is for a period of less than two years and six months, the appointment to fill the vacancy is for the unexpired term." That means that if Byrd had died within two and a half years of the end of his term, his successor would serve out the remainder of the term.

Byrd was re-elected in 2006 and his seat was not up for re-election again until November 2012. His current term was scheduled to end on January 3, 2013, which is just a few days more than the than two and a half years dictated by West Virginia law.

The law does not clarify when a vacancy occurs. For example, is it when the death occurs, when the Senate informs the state of the vacancy, or when the governor of the state declares the seat vacant? The timing is crucial, since this upcoming Saturday, July 3, marks two and a half years until Byrd's term ends.

So the question of when the next election for Byrd's seat will take place – in 2012 when his term ends, or possibly as early as this November, is unresolved for now.

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Filed under: Robert Byrd • West Virginia
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. No Incumbents 2010

    There is no excuse for Byrd leaving his state in this legal quandry. Byrd should have declined to run for re-election a long time ago, but in his quest to have his name in the record books (and plastered on as many public works as possible) he selfishly turned the Senate into his own personal nursing home with aides doing everything for him. West Virginia should never have allowed one person to be re-elected for so long. No wonder we have a $12 trillion debt and rising.

    June 28, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. Caesar the Great

    Not to sound like a jerk, but the seat should be considered vacated when the member of the senate is no longer able to perform his duties. In this case it was when Senator Byrd passed away. This should not be an issue, but Im sure this will be politicized and both parties will be up in arms over it. Here's hoping the Gov of WV does the right thing.

    June 28, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Rich

    He is dead. The seat is vacant now. Duh.

    June 28, 2010 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  4. ST

    Though life still goes on after Byrd's death, but it could be wiser to honor him for his long service by not talking loudly what comes next on the very day he has passed away.
    I heard on Fox News talking about one vote less on Dems side. I was not surprised with them, as that is their usual language (negative speaking) they are used to and for us to hear!

    June 28, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. John

    Common sense says that when someone dies then ALL his/her legal obligation stop. Therefore when Senator Burd died then his senate seat became empty (a ghost cannot not vote that I know of).
    But then again this is Americian politics people will try to get what they want not what common sense says.

    June 28, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  6. Riley

    Sorry for Byrd's family, but it's time for change in the senate. The democrats are doing nothing except making a bad economy WORSE>

    June 28, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  7. geecee

    Yes, of course, this is a serious matter. We need another Republican Senator so I hope this appointed term is really short. Forty-one NO votes are not enough. We need more filibustering, wind-bag, Party of NO Republicans, so West Virginians, don't forget next election to fill Sen. Byrd's seat, vote Republican even if the guy is incompetent, stupid, ignorant and a real jerk. They all are, after all. We need to keep this country moving backward. Vote Republican.

    June 28, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. America Shrugged

    The poor guy isn't gone for a few hours and the political calculations are already starting. No wonder people get fed up with politics.

    June 28, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Eric

    Maybe Obama and Blago can find a suitable replacement like they did in Illinois.

    June 28, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    Just do what the republicans would do in the same situation....hold off untl the 2-1/2 year threshold is met. Then listen to the screams of faux outrage from the tightie righties who are already frothing at the mouth in anticipation of trying to take the seat for themselves

    June 28, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. Mike

    I wonder what price the governer will "Sell" the nomination...or does that only happen in Chicago.

    June 28, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. phoenix86

    No matter. The West Virginia governor will appoint a democrat who will vote in lock-step with Obama to ensure that the economy of WV continues to decline.

    June 28, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Can this man please be laid to rest before the political speciulation begins?Have we lost all respect in this country?
    Even if we cannot wait until he is buried, how a bout giving his family the day to rmember before worry about who will replace him..
    No wonder everyone is so anit-polliticians
    Rest in peace Senator and my condolences to his family

    June 28, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  14. Willy Brown

    Another dumpocrap oh boy!

    June 28, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Jim in WV

    I'm from WV and pretty sure the 30 month rule is 30 months from next election (ie Nov 2012) not 30 months to Jan 2013. Our primary elections are always 6 months before the General (May / Nov.)

    Speculation in WV last year when Sen. Byrd was in the hospital was he needed to live longer than Jan 2010 filing deadline for May 2010 election to avoid special election for unexpired term.

    IMHO Gov. Manchin didn't want election that he couldn't participate in. His term expires in 2012 so we all expect him to run at that time after appointing a caretaker for the seat.

    June 28, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  16. bryan

    why vote at all? dosent obama have the right to decide who will be in power?

    dident they get caught bribeing to other prospective senators to not run? PA and CO why not WV? let not forget his seat in IL that was sold to the highest bidder...but im sure bama had no idea that was going on right?

    June 28, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  17. Barb Seger

    If the law is applied correctly, the a successor would be appointed through December of this year. A special election would take place in November and the winner would serve from January 2011 through December 2012.

    We are talking Democrats though. Let us all watch and see how this plays out.

    June 28, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  18. Sniffit

    Oh brother. Should be amusing listening to the GOPers in the Senate make all kinds of silly arguments and specious accusations in a bid to force there to be an election in November in hopes they can take the seat. Yawn. Hey, guess what? It's state law that controls the appointment process, so either stop yammering about "states rights" or don't yammer about there needing to be an election in November and let WV figure it out for themselves. In fact, just stop yammering all together.

    June 28, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  19. hillcrester

    Ask Beck and Hannity. They are know-it-alls.

    June 28, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  20. Brian

    I have a feeling the governor will find a way to make the vacancy begin after the 4th of July.

    June 28, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. U.S. Common Sense

    I say save the taxpayers funds and appoint someone to finish out his term.

    June 28, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. MikefromWV

    Simple solution. Have Manchin declare the seat vacant today, along with Harry Reid, today, also declaring the seat vacant. Simple. But will these two politicians declare the vacancy prior to July 3rd? I have my doubts. Politicians have a terrible knack for ignoring the obvious and always managing to take something simple and turn it into something very complex and hard to deal with.

    June 28, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. Rich, Texas

    True to form, I'm sure the Democrats will find a way to bend or even change the rules in their favor.

    June 28, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. T'SAH from Virginia

    A Democrat PASS
    Another Democrat should take over – PERIOD!!!!! Jeez, something else to squabble about!!!

    June 28, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |