The veteran Democratic U.S. senator died early today at age 92. He had served 51 years in the Senate and six years in the House. That’s 57 years in Congress. Yep, he was an institution.
He’s also become vilified in many circles because of all the money he channeled to his home state of West Virginia. A good many lawmakers who forgo the earmark process in federal budgeting — including Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon — often cite Byrd’s “talent” for bringing federal money home to his constituents.
One of the more, um, interesting plums in West Virginia is a Coast Guard office. How he managed to put a Coast Guard office in his landlocked state speaks volumes about the man’s clout on Capitol Hill.
The term-limits crowd tries to make the case for limiting lawmakers’ length of service by citing Byrd’s five-decades plus in Congress. Fine. Tell that to Byrd’s bosses, the voters of his state, who kept sending him back to work on their behalf every six years.
They didn’t mind being represented by someone who knew how to work the system.
It was, after all, their call to make — just as Texans have elected our share of pork-barrelers over the years.