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Byrd becomes longest serving US senator

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  • Ram Lau
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2006-06-12T203007Z_01_N12340044_RTRUKOC_0_US-BYRD.xml Byrd becomes longest serving US
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2006
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      http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2006-06-12T203007Z_01_N12340044_RTRUKOC_0_US-BYRD.xml
      Byrd becomes longest serving US senator
      Mon Jun 12, 2006 4:30 PM ET

      By Thomas Ferraro

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With bipartisan praise, Robert Byrd became the
      longest serving U.S. senator on Monday -- 48 years after first being
      elected to the chamber from the mountains of West Virginia.

      A half dozen of Byrd's colleagues -- Republicans and fellow Democrats
      -- used such words as "national treasure," "a true Senate icon," and a
      "great friend" in the Senate in saluting the 88-year-old lawmaker, who
      listened and then left without giving a speech of his own.

      "I decided not to," Byrd told reporters. "Those words by my peers were
      so heart felt, so warm, I couldn't follow that."

      With his 17,327th day in office, Byrd broke the previous mark for
      Senate longevity by South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, who retired in
      2003 at 100, which made him the oldest serving senator.

      Byrd is running for an unprecedented ninth, six-year term in November
      and has declined to predict if he may eventually break Thurmond's
      record as the oldest senator as well.

      "I have no idea. The Lord could call me home tonight," Byrd said in a
      recent interview with Reuters.

      "I love to serve. I love the Senate. I love the Constitution. If I
      could live another 100 years, I'd like to continue in the Senate,"
      Byrd said.

      Byrd walks with the aid of two canes. Yet he remains one of the most
      respected voices in Congress, where he is seen as a dogged defender of
      the U.S. Constitution and helped direct billions of dollars in federal
      money to his chronically poor state.

      Over the years, Byrd evolved from being a young member of the Ku Klux
      Klan, which he later attributed to a mistake of youth, to a
      white-haired defender of civil rights and early opponent of the Iraq
      war who has won liberal praise.

      Byrd's record-breaking day as the longest serving senator was
      bittersweet since it was also the birthday of his wife of 68 years,
      Erma, who died in March.

      "I wish she had lived to see this day," said Byrd.
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