Sen. Robert Byrd, 91, is stepping down as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. (Getty Images/File)
(CNN) - West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd is relinquishing his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he announced Friday.
Byrd, 91, has served in the Senate since 1959 and is the longest serving senator in the chamber's history. He has chaired the Appropriations Committee for the last 10 years.
"A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee," Byrd said in a statement. "I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009."
"I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate," he also said. "I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia."
Full statement after the jump
STATEMENT OF SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD (D-W.Va.)
November 7, 2008
“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.
I have been blessed to have had the honor to represent the people of West Virginia in the United States Senate for 50 years. I have been honored to lead the Senate as its Majority Leader for 12 years.
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. I have learned that nothing is quite so permanent as change. It is simply a part of living and should not be feared. To be serving in the Senate at such a momentous time in our history fills me with enormous pride. I endorsed President-elect Obama because I believed that we had taken the wrong course both at home and abroad. I am delighted with his victory. I was an early critic of the war in Iraq, as was the President-elect, who decried this war even before he was running for a United States Senate seat. I wish our new President every success with his commitment to unite us as one people.
A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009.
I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate. I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.
God willing, I will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee. I will continue to chair the Homeland Security Subcommittee, and I will work to help my state and the people of our great country in those roles.
Senator Daniel Inouye has stood in line for many years and now his time has come. He is my friend. He is a genuine American hero. He will be a skillful and fair Chairman of the Appropriations Committee because he is a man of outstanding character and great wisdom.
I thank my colleagues and the staff on the Committee for their dedicated work and their years of support in challenging times. I thank the people of West Virginia for continuing to put their faith in me. I thank God for the long life He has granted me and for the opportunity He has given me to assist this great country through long service in this magnificent institution, the United States Senate. I look forward to the years ahead and to making a contribution to a better, stronger America. No mortal could ask for more.