Difference between revisions of "Robert Byrd"

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'''Robert Byrd''' (born 1917) is a [[Democratic Party|Democratic]] Senator from [[West Virginia]]. He is currently the oldest and longest-serving member of [[Congress]], [[President pro tempore]] of the US Senate, and is the longest-serving [[Senator]] in history, having been first elected in 1959. He is third in line to the [[President of the United States|Presidency]] behind [[Vice President of the United States|Vice President]] [[Dick Cheney]] and [[Speaker of the United States House of Representatives|Speaker]] [[Nancy Pelosi]].
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'''Robert Byrd''' (born 1917) is a [[Democratic Party|Democratic]] Senator from [[West Virginia]]. He is currently the oldest and longest-serving member of [[Congress]], [[President pro tempore]] of the US Senate, and is the longest-serving [[Senator]] in history, having been first elected in 1959.  
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During the 1940s, he was involved in the [[Ku Klux Klan]] where he reached the rank of [[Exalted Cyclops]], the leader of the local chapter of the organization.<ref>Pianin, Eric. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/18/AR2005061801105_pf.html A Senator's Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK]. Washington Post, 2005-06-19, pp. A01</ref> He repeatedly expressed his desire for the Klan to expand to its previous size and power, once remarking in a letter that "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and "in every state in the nation." <ref>King, Colbert I. [http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2003/commentary/works/king2.html Sen. Byrd: The view from Darrell's barbershop], Washington Post, March 2, 2002</ref>
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Byrd commented on the 1945 controversy raging over the idea of racially integrating the military. In his book When ''Jim Crow Met John Bull'',  Graham Smith referred to a letter written that year by Byrd, when he was 28 years old, to [[segregationist]] Senator [[Theodore Bilbo]] of [[Mississippi]], in which Byrd vowed never to fight:
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:''Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."''
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He had earlier written Bilbo:
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:''"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side"''
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By the 1950s, he was no longer involved with the Ku Klux Klan. To this day, he acknowledges the poor choice he made, and like [[Strom Thurmon]], (who originally ran on a segregationist platform) says he regrets being involved with the group.
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He is third in line to the [[President of the United States|Presidency]] behind [[Vice President of the United States|Vice President]] [[Dick Cheney]] and [[Speaker of the United States House of Representatives|Speaker]] [[Nancy Pelosi]].
  
 
==Congressional service==
 
==Congressional service==
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   | url = http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0228-07.htm
 
   | url = http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0228-07.htm
 
   | accessdate = 2006-10-03 }}</ref> Despite an 83 day [[filibuster]] in the Senate, both parties in Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Act, and President Johnson signed the bill into law.<ref>http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Civil_Rights_Filibuster_Ended.htm U.S. Senate, June 10, 1964: Civil Rights Filibuster Ended]</ref> He also opposed the [[Voting Rights Act of 1965]], but voted for the [[Civil Rights Act of 1968]]. In 2005, Byrd told the ''Washington Post'' that his membership in the [[Baptist]] church led to a change in his views. In the opinion of one reviewer, Byrd, along with other Southern and border state Democrats, came to realize that he would have to temper "his blatantly [[racial segregation|segregationist]] views" and move to the Democratic Party mainstream if he wanted to play a role nationally.<ref name="WP061905"/>
 
   | accessdate = 2006-10-03 }}</ref> Despite an 83 day [[filibuster]] in the Senate, both parties in Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Act, and President Johnson signed the bill into law.<ref>http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Civil_Rights_Filibuster_Ended.htm U.S. Senate, June 10, 1964: Civil Rights Filibuster Ended]</ref> He also opposed the [[Voting Rights Act of 1965]], but voted for the [[Civil Rights Act of 1968]]. In 2005, Byrd told the ''Washington Post'' that his membership in the [[Baptist]] church led to a change in his views. In the opinion of one reviewer, Byrd, along with other Southern and border state Democrats, came to realize that he would have to temper "his blatantly [[racial segregation|segregationist]] views" and move to the Democratic Party mainstream if he wanted to play a role nationally.<ref name="WP061905"/>
 
===Leadership roles===
 
 
Byrd has been a member of the Democratic leadership since 1967, when he was elected as secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference (caucus). He became [[Senate Majority Whip]], or the second-ranking Democrat, in 1971. From 1977 to 1989 Byrd was the leader of the Senate Democrats, serving as [[Party leaders of the United States Senate|Senate Majority Leader]] from 1977 to 1981 and 1987 to 1989 and as [[Party leaders of the United States Senate|Senate Minority Leader]] from 1981 to 1987.
 
 
In 1976, Byrd was the "favorite son" candidate in West Virginia's primary. His easy victory gave him control of the delegation to the national convention. His real goal was to become Senate majority leader to succeed [[Mike Mansfield]].{{Fact|date=February 2007}} Byrd had the inside track as majority whip. Byrd focused most of his time on campaigning for the office of majority leader, more so than for re-election to the Senate, as he was virtually unopposed for his fourth term. By the time the vote for majority leader was at hand, he had it so wrapped up that his lone rival, Minnesota's [[Hubert Humphrey]], withdrew before the balloting took place.
 
 
Byrd is well known for steering federal dollars to West Virginia, one of the country's poorest states. In fact, he is called by some the "King of Pork."<ref>http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=news_byrddroppings</ref> After becoming chair of the Appropriations Committee in 1989, Byrd sought to steer, over time, a total of $1 billion for public works in the state.{{Fact|date=February 2007}} He passed that mark in 1991, and the steady stream of funds for highways, dams, educational institutions, and federal agency offices has continued unabated over the course of his membership. More than thirty pending or existing federal projects bear Byrd's name. He commented on his reputation for attaining funds for projects in West Virginia in August 2006 when he called himself "Big Daddy" at the dedication to the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.<ref>[http://www.herald-dispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060827/OPINION/608270323/1034 Herald-Dispatch]</ref> He is close friends with [[Ted Stevens]] (R-[[Alaska|AK]]), with whom he alternated as chairman of the committee from 1995 to 2001. Stevens is also legendary for sending federal money back to his home state. Their relationship has been strained in recent years, however, over Byrd's recent stands on U.S. [[foreign policy]].
 
 
Byrd is also known for using his knowledge of [[parliamentary procedure]]: Before the "[[Reagan Revolution]]", Byrd frustrated Republicans with his encyclopedic knowledge of the inner workings of the Senate. From 1977 to 1979 he was described as "performing a procedural tap dance around the minority, outmaneuvering Republicans with his mastery of the Senate's arcane rules."<ref>[http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20C13FD3F5D0C738EDDAC0894DD404482 ''The New York Times'']</ref> In 1988, while Majority Leader, he [[Motion (democracy)|moved]] a [[Call of the house|call of the senate]], which was adopted by the majority present, in order to have the [[Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate|Sergeant at Arms]] arrest members not in attendance. One member ([[Robert Packwood]], R-[[Oregon|OR]]) was escorted back to the chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms in order to obtain a [[quorum]].<ref>http://www.c-span.org/questions/weekly12.asp</ref>
 
 
As the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, Byrd was [[President pro tempore of the United States Senate|President pro Tempore of the Senate]] from 1989 until the Republicans won control of the Senate in 1995. When the Senate was evenly split between parties after the 2000 elections, Byrd was president pro tempore again briefly in 2001, when outgoing Vice President [[Al Gore]]'s tiebreaking vote temporarily gave the Democrats a majority. He stepped down when Vice President [[Dick Cheney]]'s tiebreaking vote gave the Republicans a majority. When Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican party to become an independent he again became president pro tem from June 2001 until Republicans retook the Senate in January 2003. During the times he served as president pro tempore he was the fourth person in the line of presidential succession. On November 14, 2006, he was again elected [[President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate]], as a result of the [[2006 Senate Elections]].
 
 
==Klan Affiliation==
 
During the 1940s, he was involved in the [[Ku Klux Klan]] where he reached the rank of [[Exalted Cyclops]], the leader of the local chapter of the organization.<ref>Pianin, Eric. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/18/AR2005061801105_pf.html A Senator's Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK]. Washington Post, 2005-06-19, pp. A01</ref> He repeatedly expressed his desire for the Klan to expand to its previous size and power, once remarking in a letter that "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and "in every state in the nation." <ref>King, Colbert I. [http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2003/commentary/works/king2.html Sen. Byrd: The view from Darrell's barbershop], Washington Post, March 2, 2002</ref>
 
 
Byrd commented on the 1945 controversy raging over the idea of racially integrating the military. In his book When ''Jim Crow Met John Bull'',  Graham Smith referred to a letter written that year by Byrd, when he was 28 years old, to [[segregationist]] Senator [[Theodore Bilbo]] of [[Mississippi]], in which Byrd vowed never to fight:
 
 
:''Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."''
 
 
He had earlier written Bilbo:
 
 
:''"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side"''
 
 
By the 1950s, he was no longer involved with the Ku Klux Klan. To this day, he acknowledges the poor choice he made, and like [[Strom Thurmon]], (who originally ran on a segregationist platform) says he regrets being involved with the group.
 
  
 
==References==
 
==References==

Revision as of 15:40, 8 June 2007

Robert Byrd (born 1917) is a Democratic Senator from West Virginia. He is currently the oldest and longest-serving member of Congress, President pro tempore of the US Senate, and is the longest-serving Senator in history, having been first elected in 1959.

During the 1940s, he was involved in the Ku Klux Klan where he reached the rank of Exalted Cyclops, the leader of the local chapter of the organization.[1] He repeatedly expressed his desire for the Klan to expand to its previous size and power, once remarking in a letter that "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and "in every state in the nation." [2]

Byrd commented on the 1945 controversy raging over the idea of racially integrating the military. In his book When Jim Crow Met John Bull, Graham Smith referred to a letter written that year by Byrd, when he was 28 years old, to segregationist Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, in which Byrd vowed never to fight:

Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

He had earlier written Bilbo:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side"

By the 1950s, he was no longer involved with the Ku Klux Klan. To this day, he acknowledges the poor choice he made, and like Strom Thurmon, (who originally ran on a segregationist platform) says he regrets being involved with the group.

He is third in line to the Presidency behind Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Congressional service

Byrd was elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives in 1952 for the 6th district of West Virginia, succeeding E.H. Hedrick, who had decided to step down to run for Governor of West Virginia. Byrd was reelected to the House twice. In 1958, he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating the Republican incumbent W. Chapman Revercomb. He has been reelected eight times. For his first four terms, Byrd was West Virginia's junior senator. This was because his colleague from 1959 to 1985, Jennings Randolph, had been elected on the same day in a special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Matthew Neely.

While Byrd faced vigorous Republican opposition in the past, he has not faced truly serious opposition since freshman congressman Cleve Benedict ran against him in 1982. He has since won by comfortable margins. Despite his tremendous popularity in the state, he has only run unopposed once, in 1976. On two other occasions — in 1994 and 2000 — he carried all 55 of West Virginia's counties. In his reelection bid in 2000, he won all but seven of West Virginia's precincts. Shelley Moore Capito, a Congresswoman and the daughter of one of Byrd's longtime foes—former governor Arch Moore, Jr.—briefly weighed a challenge to Byrd in 2006, but decided against it.

In the 1960 Presidential election primaries, Byrd, a close Senate ally of Lyndon B. Johnson, tried and failed to derail the Democratic front-runner and ultimately successful candidate John F. Kennedy in the crucial West Virginia primary.

On March 4, 2001, during an interview with Tony Snow, Byrd said the following comment on race relations:


There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word.

Byrd's use of the term "nigger" created immediate controversy.

On November 7, 2006, Byrd was elected to an unprecedented ninth consecutive term in the Senate. He became the longest-serving senator in American history on June 12, 2006, surpassing Strom Thurmond of South Carolina with 17,327 days of service.[3] Previously, he already held the record for the longest unbroken tenure in the Senate (Thurmond served 48 years in total, but vacated the office between April and November of 1956). Counting his tenure as a West Virginia state legislator from 1947 to 1953, Byrd has served as an elected official for almost 60 years and has never lost an election. Byrd has cast a total of 17,745 votes as of September 13, 2006 — the most of any senator in history. Upon the death of Senator George Smathers of Florida on January 20, 2007 — Byrd became the last living United States Senator from the 1950s.[4] This means that not only has Byrd outlived every other Senator who had seniority over him, but he is the only person to ever have remained in the Senate the entire time while doing it. He is on pace to pass Carl Hayden of Arizona as the longest-serving member of Congress (House and Senate tenure combined) in American history sometime in early 2010. Byrd is the last remaining Senator to have voted on a statehood bill and has served longer in the Senate than eight of his colleagues have been alive (those being Bob Casey, Jr., Amy Klobuchar, Blanche Lincoln, John Thune, David Vitter, Barack Obama, Mark Pryor, and John E. Sununu).

Byrd is currently the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations. Byrd was first appointed to the committee by then-Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson when he first entered the Senate in 1959. Since 1989, he has been the committee's top Democrat and has chaired the committee when the Democrats have control of the Senate. Byrd is also a member of the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on the Budget.

Filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Byrd joined with other Southern and border state Democrats to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964, personally filibustering the bill for 14 hours — a move he now says he regrets.[5] Despite an 83 day filibuster in the Senate, both parties in Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Act, and President Johnson signed the bill into law.[6] He also opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In 2005, Byrd told the Washington Post that his membership in the Baptist church led to a change in his views. In the opinion of one reviewer, Byrd, along with other Southern and border state Democrats, came to realize that he would have to temper "his blatantly segregationist views" and move to the Democratic Party mainstream if he wanted to play a role nationally.[7]

References

  1. Pianin, Eric. A Senator's Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK. Washington Post, 2005-06-19, pp. A01
  2. King, Colbert I. Sen. Byrd: The view from Darrell's barbershop, Washington Post, March 2, 2002
  3. The Hill
  4. U.S. Senate
  5. "Byrd Says He Regrets Voting For Patriot Act", Associate Press, 2006-02-28. Retrieved on 2006-10-03. (English) 
  6. http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Civil_Rights_Filibuster_Ended.htm U.S. Senate, June 10, 1964: Civil Rights Filibuster Ended]
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named WP061905