Monday, 5 April 2004


Everyone’s favorite ex-Klansman, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), is back in the news, on the occasion of casting his 17,000th vote in the United States Senate (rumors that the vote was the one completing the wholesale transfer of the federal government to West Virginia are greatly exaggerated).

As when Trent Lott got a bit effusive in praising the longeivity of Strom Thurmond, though, this has become an event where a number of Senators decided “to heck with nuance,” and got a bit too enthusiastic about all of Sen. Byrd’s life.

One such quote is from Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Ct.). Unfortunately, there’s a bit of controversy regarding the provenance of the quote. So, to set the record straight, here is the complete text of Sen. Dodd’s remarks, from Thursday’s edition of the Congressional Record:

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I add my voice as well to my seatmate, if I may. I sit in this chair by choice. Senator Byrd sits in his chair by choice as well, but he makes the choice before I do. I wanted to find out where he was going to sit so I could sit next to him. I did that because I wanted to sit next to the best, to learn everything I possibly could about the ability of this institution to provide the kind of leadership I think the country expects of us.

Several thoughts come to mind. This is a day of obvious significance in the number of votes that have been cast, 17,000, but it is far more important to talk about quality than quantity. Quantity is not an insignificant achievement, but the quality of my colleague and friend’s service is what I think about when the name ROBERT C. BYRD comes to my mind.

I carry with me every single day, 7 days a week, a rather threadbare copy of the United States Constitution given to me many years ago—I can’t even read it well now; it is so worn out—I may need a new copy—given to me by my seatmate, ROBERT C. BYRD. I revere it. I tell people why I carry it because it reminds me of the incredible gift given to me by the people of Connecticut to serve in this Chamber, to remind me of the importance of an oath we all made, and that is to do everything we can to preserve, protect, and defend the principles upon which this Nation was founded. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my mind, is the embodiment of that goal.

It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation’s 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country. Certainly today that is not any less true.

I join my colleagues in thanking the Senator from West Virginia for the privilege of serving with him. He has now had to endure two members of my family as colleagues. Senator Byrd was elected to the Senate in 1958 along with my father. He served with my father in the House. I have now had the privilege of serving with Senator Byrd for 24 years, twice the length of service of my father. That is an awful lot of time to put up with members of the Dodd family. We thank Senator Byrd for his endurance through all of that time.

There is no one I admire more, there is no one to whom I listen more closely and carefully when he speaks on any subject matter. I echo the comments of my colleague from Massachusetts. If I had to pick out any particular point of service for which I admire the Senator most, it is his unyielding defense of the Constitution. All matters come and go. We cast votes on such a variety of issues, but Senator Byrd’s determination to defend and protect this document which serves as our rudder as we sail through the most difficult of waters is something that I admire beyond all else.

I join in this moment in saying: Thank you for your service, thank you for your friendship, and I look forward to many more years of sitting next to you on the floor of the Senate.

I yield the floor.

In any event, you can find potentially embarassing quotes from about half the Senate in the series of effusive comments about Sen. Byrd.

Friday, 9 April 2004

Dodding old fools

I haven’t been “flooding the zone” on Chris Dodd’s idiotic praise of good ole Bobby “The Klansman” Byrd for a variety of reasons—not the least of which is, whatever other faults Dodd has, a history as a neo-segregationist isn’t one of them, which usefully distinguishes him from Trent Lott.

However, Robert Prather has a pretty good post from a less forgiving point of view. Plus, he takes a few well-deserved swings at Hesiod, who’s sort of the downmarket version of Atrios.

Friday, 3 December 2004

Byrd plays curriculum designer

U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) apparently added a rider ($) to the FY2005 appropriations bill requiring any educational institution receiving federal aid to have some sort of “instructional program on the U.S. Constitution” every September 17, according to today’s Chronicle of Higher Education daily update. (Here’s a link for people not blowing $85/year on the Chronicle.)

Perhaps we political scientists (who, doubtless, will be the individuals subject to this unfunded mandate) should also devote another day—say, December 3—to teaching about the practice of including non-germane provisions in conference reports, thus circumventing the committee system and the rest of the ordinary legislative process. I feel the need for a “teach-in” already.

Saturday, 5 March 2005

More from the Klansman

Steven Taylor points out that in addition to eliding his own role in the anti-Civil Rights Act filibusters of the 1960s, perennial Signifying Nothing foil Robert Byrd seems to be forgetting that he was Senate Majority Whip (the second most senior leadership position in the Senate, behind only the Majority Leader—the Vice President and president pro tempore are essentially powerless) when the cloture rule on ending filibusters went from two-thirds to three-fifths back in 1975.

Update: Hugh Hewitt, writing for the Weekly Standard, finds Byrd singing a different tune about rules changes in 1979 too (þ: Prof. Bainbridge).

Tonight's project

I cobbled together an op-ed on judicial nominations and the filibuster for the Clarion-Ledger. Let’s see if it makes print; maybe they’re looking for a Mary Matalin (or at least a George Stephanapolous) to Bob McElvaine’s James Carville.

Monday, 7 March 2005

Paper trails

Stephen Bainbridge has dug up a law review article that includes evidence that Robert Byrd, in fact, endorsed the Senate’s ability to amend the Senate rules to limit the filibuster by a simple majority vote in 1979; it’s not exactly the equivalent of the “nuclear option,” which would be a (possibly suspect) ruling from the chair, but it’s pretty damning evidence nonetheless (þ: Steven Taylor; more here).

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite syphilocon/national securty threat Robert Novak is reduced to complaining about the order in which Arlen Specter plans to send judicial nominees to the Senate floor, which is doubly amusing since at the end of the article he concedes it won’t matter anyway (þ: memeorandum).

Friday, 1 April 2005

Chris Lawrence: Columnist

Well, the long-awaited column has finally arrived in print, and I only just learned it was there with an email from a reader. Serves me right for not checking the Clarion-Ledger website today.

It’s on judicial filibusters and a possible compromise between the Democratic and Republican positions on the “nuclear option.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Not a guy named Buster from Philly

James Joyner has lots of linkage today on the filibuster, including a link to Steven Taylor’s civics lesson on the origins of the practice (and the meaning of “checks and balances”). It’s good stuff: go forth and read it.

Now is as good a time as any to relink the filibuster op-ed, including (for the first time on this blog) the unedited version of the piece. As the op-ed indicates, I’m more ambivalent than both James and Steven on abolishing the filibuster outright—and, as Jacqueline Passey points out, obstructionism has its uses.