Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this morning on the Senate floor to congratulate Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia on becoming the longest-serving member in the history of Congress. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“When baseball legend Lou Gehrig retired after playing 2,130 consecutive games, every expert jumped to the same conclusion: this record will never be broken. Of course, they were all wrong.
“Throughout history, forecasters have sentenced themselves to ridicule for prematurely assuming a skyscraper’s height would never be topped, for promising an invention’s ingenuity would never be outdone, or for contending an athletic feat would never be surpassed.
“Even so, I am willing to risk predicting that many of the records set by Senator Robert Byrd will never be matched:
· Since coming to the Senate in 1959, Senator Byrd has cast more than 18,500 votes. No one else, past or present, even comes close.
· Here’s another: He is the only Senator who has ever been elected to nine full terms in this body.
· And another: He has presided over both the shortest session in Senate history – not even one second long – and presided for the longest continuous period – more than 21 hours.
· Here’s one more: No one has ever served on a Senate Committee longer than Senator Byrd. Just days after being sworn in, he joined the Appropriation Committee he would later chair.
· He has also held the most leadership positions in Senate history, and continues to serve as our President Pro Tempore.
“And just moments ago, when this body was gaveled into session, Senator Byrd realized one more unparalleled accomplishment: he has just become the longest-serving member of Congress in United States history.
“Every day since January 3, 1953 – that’s 56 years, 10 months and 16 days – West Virginians have been proud to be represented in Washington by Robert Byrd.
“He began his service in the House the same day Alaska became our 49th state, and was months into his Senate service when Hawaii became our 50th.
“Senator Byrd has served in this nation’s Congress for more than a quarter of the time it has existed. And he has served in Congress longer than more than a quarter of today’s sitting Senators – and the President of the United States – have been alive. That doesn’t even count one Senator who was born just days after his first election to represent West Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, and a second who was born just weeks after that.
“A dozen men have called the Oval Office his own while Senator Byrd has called the Capitol building his office.
“He twice won every single one of West Virginia’s 55 counties. And throughout one of the longest political careers in history, no one ever has defeated Robert Byrd in a single election.
“But through each one of those campaigns – after each of the twelve times he has taken an oath to represent the people of West Virginia – on every single one of the 20,774 days he has served – he has never taken the privilege for granted.
“As a former leader of both the majority and the minority caucuses in the Senate, he knows better than most that legislation is the art of compromise. It is telling that the man who has served here longer than any other American has come to the conclusion that we must work together as partners, not partisans, for the good of our states and our country.
“He has seen partisanship and bipartisanship; war and peace; recession and recovery; and his perspective is invaluable to the way we carry ourselves as United States Senators.
“Senator Byrd’s legislative accomplishments are many, and he continues to accumulate them. And while those accomplishments fortify his incomparable legacy, he is perhaps best known in this chamber as the foremost guardian of the Senate’s complex rules, procedures and customs.
“He has not concerned himself with such precision as a pastime or a mere hobby. He has done so because of the unyielding respect he has for the Senate. And on this momentous occasion, I say to my friend that the Senate returns that unyielding respect to him.
“By virtue of his endurance, Robert Byrd has known and worked with many of the greats of the United States Senate. Because of his enduring virtue, he has long since established himself among them.
“There will never be another Senator like Senator Byrd, and today’s milestone is another record that will never be broken.
“Congratulations, Senator Byrd.”