Byrd’s Back in Action

Posted October 23, 2009 at 4:00pm

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), 91, who has been in ill health for much of the year, appears to be back on the job, returning to the Senate floor this week to manage the Homeland Security spending bill and deliver an impassioned speech on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

Byrd was hospitalized last month for two days after falling at his home in Northern Virginia. He also had a six-and-a-half week stay over the summer for what was described as a mild infection, which, according to his office, later developed into a staph infection. Byrd, who uses a wheelchair, has largely kept a low profile this year due to his ailing condition.

But over the last two weeks, the longest-serving Senator has resumed much of his Senate schedule. He took to the floorearlier this week to manage the $42.8 billion Homeland Security spending bill. Byrd serves as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

And on Wednesday, Byrd took to the well of the chamber to warn against heightened U.S. involvement in Afghanistan

“History tells us that Afghanistan does not take kindly to foreign intervention,— Byrd said. “Yet here we are discussing a proposed counterinsurgency strategy that would vastly increase U.S. presence in Afghanistan in the vain hope of spawning an economy and a land that in many areas and in many ways are still frozen in the time of Alexander the Great.—

The speech was Byrd’s second in two weeks and was delivered minutes after Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), one of Byrd’s closest Senate friends, was honored on the floor for becoming the third-longest-serving Senator.

Byrd, who also serves as the President Pro Tem and is third in the line of succession to the presidency, turns 92 next month.