Senator Byrd sets record for congressional longevity: 20,774 days
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.
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.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Byrd arriving at Capitol in February)