Senator Byrd sets record for congressional longevity: 20,774 days

November 18, 2009

Dubbed “the world’s most exclusive club and deliberative body,” the U.S. Senate is packed with white-haired lawmakers, many of whom have served in the chamber for decades.

While Americans generally retire in their mid-60s or so, about half of the 100 senators are 65 years or older.

And one of them, Democrat Robert Byrd, 91, of West Virginia, set the record on Wednesday as the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress ever — 20,774 days. OBAMA/BUDGET

Byrd made it clear he has no thoughts of leaving anytime soon. “I look forward to serving you for the next 56 years and 320 days,” he said in a statement to mark his historic day.

“I am so deeply grateful to the people of the great state of West Virginia for demonstrating such confidence,” added Byrd, who has been elected to an unprecedented nine full six-year Senate terms.

“My only regret is that my beloved wife, companion and confidant, my dear Erma, is not here with me,” Byrd said. “I know that she is looking down from the heavens smiling at me and saying, ‘Congratulations my dear Robert — but don’t let it go to your head.’”

Byrd broke the record for congressional longevity previously held by the late Carl Hayden, who like Byrd served in the House of Representatives before going to the Senate.

Democratic and Republican colleagues saluted Byrd for his many achievements, which include holding a number of leadership posts over the last half century as a bona fide Senate giant as well as a living legend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted records are routinely broken, but predicted many of Byrd’s will stand the test of time, such as having cast more than 18,500 Senate votes. “There will never be another senator like Senator Byrd,” he said.

To be sure, Byrd doesn’t hold all the records. At least not yet. Among the records yet to match is the mark as the oldest senator ever. That was set in 2002 when Senator Strom Thurmond, a month before retirement, turned 100.

On Friday, Byrd turns 92.

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Byrd arriving at Capitol in February)

8 comments

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When I think of term limits for congress I think of this guy.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

A card carrying member of the KKK. Yeah, he is something to be proud of.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I didn’t know Senator Bird was a card carrying member of the KKK. Is that true? Is he still in the KKK? How did he keep getting elected if he was in the KKK?

Posted by Eli | Report as abusive

Yes, he belonged to the KKK. Fact. But liberal media doesn’t like to remind us of that quaint little fact.Liberals racist? Oh, it can’t be true. That’s what we are told…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Senator Byrd was a member of the Klan for a short time in the 1940′s. While he did oppose civil rights into the 1960′s, Byrd has since often renounced and apologized for the mistakes of his past. It’s unfortunate that some people still reflexively shout “KKK!” every time they hear Byrd’s name mentioned, like trained parrots. It’s a cheap shot by cowardly people.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

I’m sure at age 92 he’s able to read thousand page bills thoroughly and have an indepth understanding of how it affects the modern middle income american.American politics at its finest.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Robert Byrd belonged to the KKK, but liberals take care of liberals so he doesn’t have to live with the darkness of his life.Had a conservative, even for one day, belonged to the KKK, then the liberals and their media would remind everyone of it for the rest of his life.It’s a double standard and it is not relevant how long he was in the KKK, just that he was and that makes him a racist bigot. Period! Saying he is sorry is too convenient, he is a politician who wants his job.Yes, democrats are bigots too…Such hypocrisy…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

getplaning,renouncing and apologizing is a speciality with democratic politicians and now they can flip flop in one day ask the new representative from NY.I think it would be appropriate to mention the term” blue dogs” rather than parrots,because again principles or is it 100.000.000 dollar tax payer bribes, all come into play when mistakes from the past show up!

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive