November 7th, 2008
02:37 PM ET
14 years ago

Byrd stepping down from Appropriations chair


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


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.


Filed under: Senate
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Kelp in WV

    Yes, Sen. Byrd is the king of pork but WV has needed that support. Our inside joke is "thank God for Mississippi" or we would be last in the nation in just about everything but teen smoking rates. Senator Byrd has served West Virginia and the nation very admirably and bought the people of Appalachia out of scratching out an meager existence toiling in a coal mine or working a rocky field by bringing government offices and knowledge based jobs to West Virginia. Despite his age is he among the most progressive public servants in the senate. I thank him for his years of service.

    November 7, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. C. Kemp


    November 7, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Matt

    Sen. Byrd has served this country in the Senate from the Eisenhower administration through the Bush administration. He is a national treasure. Imagine the history he has seen first hand in the Senate. He warned us not to go to war in Iraq, but was ignored. All he warned could happen, did in Iraq. Age is not a reason to force a representative from office in the Senate. We must learn from the history he provides us, or we are doomed to repeat it as we were in Iraq.

    November 7, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Von

    You disgust me, you pathetic racist. Think of some other reason to dislike Obama other than his race. Ignorant trollop.

    November 7, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Semper Cogitant

    So the clansman leaves government service when a black man is elected President? Isn't that interesting.

    November 7, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Goodbye, God bless, good luck, and don't forget to pick up your fresh white sheets at the cleaners.

    November 7, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Mel Marks

    Like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms before you - it's GREAT to see you go.

    November 7, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Barbara

    Good move by Byrd. Not that familiar with his views but if he feels that he can no longer be effective than it is time to step down. Maybe some other politicians should follow his lead. Too bad our current President did not have this same "ah hah" moment years ago.

    I say 2 cheers for Byrd for using goo common sense and judgement.

    November 7, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. David Duke

    Can't wait to have you back at our meetings!

    November 7, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  10. A.B.

    If this was in fact his decision, it was the only sound, rational one he has made in decades. He is a fossil in mind, body and spirit; he has long since outlived his utility as a Senator aside from delivering millions in tax payer provided pork to his under acheiving state of West Virginia. He is the antithesis of what our founding fathers intended legislators to be. The former Clansman, a Senator since 1959?!? Amazing. (This is just my opinion, no one needs to defend their position or attack mine.)

    November 7, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  11. robert g parker

    This is what is wrong with America. Byrd should have been retired 30 years ago.To hell with what party he belongs to. Every bridge, every park, every street-every monument is named after this man. I believe basically this man is good but he couldn't give up his control. That is why we need term limits!

    November 7, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. David , Williamsburg, Va

    The word Mutt is used for dogs of mixed breeds not people half white and half white. The President -Elect was referring to himself as being of mixed breeds. HIMSELF!! No one else!!! Why should anyone be "hurt"?The fact is most of us are of mixed breeds. I am Scotch-Irish and German.

    November 7, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |

    I hope he isn't stepping down b/c Obama was elected. If so I feel sorry that we have people in high places who are so stupid and still have racist hearts.

    November 7, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. Robert M.

    Robert C. Byrd has done so much for our state and god bless him. As for all you people out there that hate him for some of the very stupid remarks he has said all I can say is that I understand you are not big fans of him. However, being from WV I can say that we here in the state are very fond of him and are very grateful for everything he as done for us over the years. And even though you don't like him at least try and show some respect for the man and stop your hateful comments. It does no good to insult people via the internet and it is pretty childish

    November 7, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. andrew musisi

    Dear senate thank you, for all you have done and yet you look like
    the youngest in the house ,keep doing.

    November 7, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  16. John

    I lived in WV for 3 years in the late '70s and didn't care for Sen Byrd very much. As others have mentioned, he is the King of Pork. However, he did a lot of good for the people of WV and they are the ones who keep electing him. Reading the prior comments, I wonder:
    1. How do people who have no sense of how the Constitution is written to separate powers manage to use a computer with their limited intelligence?(Obama will no appoint any one to a leadership role in the legislature. The House and Senate leadership does this)
    2. Are we ever going to get past Hillary, McCain, the KKK 50 years ago?
    These are serious times with serious problems and we need serious people with real solutions. Remember, if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. God bless the USA.

    November 7, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  17. Kelly Collins

    God bless you Senator Byrd. Thank you for all that you have done for the beautiful sate of West Virginia! I know that people say you are the king of "pork", you just did what the people of West Virginia voted you in to do, and furthermore, why wouldn't you help the people who elect you. Why did you endorse Obama, that's worse than all the "pork" in the world? Democrat or not, I DNO NOT trust him!!! God bless this country, if people keep trying to leave GOD out, HE will not bless us! Get rid of the "America haters!!!

    Thanks Senator Byrd!!!

    November 7, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  18. George

    Hey It are clueless my friend. BO will have nothing to do with Byrd's replacement. Nice try but you might want to go back and read your high school freshman civics text book.

    November 7, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Ken, Granite Falls, NC

    Having lived in West Virginia until my retirement 15 years ago, I had the pleasure of dealing with Sen. Byrd on several occasions over the years. He is one of the most dedicated persons that the Senate has ever seen and he always strived mightily to do what he felt was best for the country and for West Virginia. He is a true patriot ans I thank him for his dedicated service.

    November 7, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  20. Buckeye

    God has blessed America with the wise leadership of Senator Bryd, a genuine elder of, for and by We, The People. There are precious few like him anywhere, anytime. He incarnates Wisdom.

    November 7, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  21. Judy-in-TX

    Senator Byrd is truly a remarkable gentleman.
    He is the living memory of the history of the Senate and of this country.
    And he is a man of principle.
    Think of the changes he has seen in this country and he forged those changes in himself to adjust to the new world he encountered.
    He's a truly ethical person.
    When he waxes at length on the history of a bill, and he remembers all the bills which preceded it and why this particular piece of legislation is necessary now, I never fail to learn something about American legislative history.
    Thank you, Senator Byrd, for your service to our country.
    Judy in Big Thicket of Texas
    (And Terry from Ohio: Give President-elect Obama credit for having a sense of humor about the selection of the new First Dog.
    I thought it was a clever remark which placed this "news" up against all the thorny problems he is wrestling with.)

    November 7, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  22. Addam

    I'm from WV. I am a lot more to the left than Byrd, but I appreciate his hard work. He has done a lot for a state that has remained 49th in just about everything. We wouldn't have a lot of the roads and infrastructure that we actually do have if it wasn't for him. Everyone who thinks he is a racist is probably shouldn't be throwing stones because I'm sure at some point in their life they had been ignorant. I'm not condoning his acts because I think they are horrible, but people change, times change, society changes. I hope we continue to get what bit of funding we do receive but I doubt it. One person's pork barrell is another person's needed bridge, or road, or other worthy projects. Some of the things are ridiculous, but what's 3 million when we're dropping 10 billion in Iraq each month. What's 500 million when how many billions are unaccounted for from the no-bid contracts received due to the Iraq War. Squeeze Haliburton and see if a lot of "missing" money doesn't start falling to the ground. If you want experienced people to craft laws and to guide policies, you need experienced individuals as well as new blood coming into office. If you limit the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns, you'd even the playing field and let only the truly worthy people remain in office for 40 years. But that would be too simple.

    November 7, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  23. Farrell

    Senator Byrd, another voice like that of Barack Obama who was against Bush's disaster of a war in Iraq from the start. He still has much to say to us all, if we're smart enough to listen.

    November 7, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  24. ran

    It is about time. He is a prim example why we should have term limits.

    November 7, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  25. AdaAugusta

    Sen. Byrd is a hero here in WV. Shame on all of you that have said negative things.

    November 7, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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