Byrd Still Hospitalized; Local Paper Says Contingencies Discussed

Posted June 15, 2009 at 12:32pm

Hospitalized exactly one month ago for an infection, 91-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) remains under medical care and has no plans to return to Capitol Hill this week.

Byrd’s office declined to provide any new information about the Senator’s condition Monday. A spokesman referenced a June 8 press release as the most recent update on the Senator’s status. That release noted that Byrd “continues to recover from a staph infection in the hospital.—

Sources have said Senate Democratic leaders and Byrd’s own staff are largely in the dark about his true condition.

Meanwhile, the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette noted in a story published Sunday that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) spoke with state Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week “to discuss contingencies— in the event Byrd is unable to return to the Senate. Byrd, the longest-serving Senator, was re-elected to a ninth term in 2006.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley declined to comment on the alleged conference call with Manchin.

Byrd was hospitalized on May 15 for what was described as a mild infection. His office said he later developed a staph infection. His office has declined to comment about where Byrd is receiving medical treatment.

The ailing Democrat has been admitted to the hospital a few times over the past year. Last June, he also had been treated for a minor infection.

Byrd’s failing health became an issue last year when he chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee. After a strong push from Democratic leaders throughout the year, Byrd voluntarily gave up the gavel, but he still chairs the panel’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Emily Pierce contributed to this report.