Robert Byrd's office emailed this statement at 5:15 am ET. "I am saddened that the family of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., tearfully announces the passing of the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history. He was 92. Byrd died peacefully at approximately 3 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital."
The New York Times: "Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem."
More: "Mr. Byrd's death comes as Senate Democrats are working to pass the final version of the financial overhaul bill and win other procedural battles in the week before the Independence Day recess. In the polarized atmosphere of Washington, President Obama's agenda seemed to hinge on Mr. Byrd's health. Earlier this year, in the final days of the health care debate, the ailing senator was pushed onto the Senate floor in his plaid wheelchair so he could cast his votes."
"A child of the West Virginia coal fields, Mr. Byrd rose from the grinding poverty that has plagued his state since before the Great Depression, overcame an early and ugly association with the Ku Klux Klan, worked his way through night school and by force of will, determination and iron discipline made himself a person of authority and influence in Washington," the Washington Post adds. "Although he mined extraordinary amounts of federal largesse for his perennially impoverished state, his reach extended beyond the bounds of the Mountain State."
The Charleston Daily Mail called him "as knowledgeable, serious and intimidating as any politician in the country" as well as "a master historian, orator and parliamentarian who rose from poverty in rural Appalachia." And: "When he was just starting his political career as a state lawmaker, there were only four miles of divided highways in West Virginia. After a half century in Washington and time at the helm of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, there were nearly 2,000 miles of national highway."
Politico writes up the succession story: "What a difference a few days make -- or don't -- in filling the rest of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's ninth term. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has the power to appoint a successor to Byrd – but, because Byrd died at the beginning of this week and not the end, it's not entirely clear whether that person will be a short-timer in the Senate or serve more than two years. Under West Virginia election law, Manchin surely would have been able to appoint someone to fill the entire remainder of Byrd's term had Byrd died after July 3 – or with less than 30 months left to go on a term that expires Jan. 3, 2013. But with more than 30 months left of an "unexpired term," the law stipulates that he tap an interim successor until an election can be held."
Per NBC's Chris Donovan, the loss of Senator Byrd is yet another recent hit to institutional knowledge and experience in the U.S. Senate -- especially since he had been considered an unofficial historian of the body. Going back to Election Day 2008, the Senate had SIX members with 35+ years of service in the Senate: Robert Byrd (almost 50 years); Ted Kennedy (46 years); Daniel Inouye (almost 46 years); Ted Stevens (almost 40 years); Pete Domenici (almost 36 years) and Joe Biden (almost 36 years). Byrd's death means that just a year and a half later, only ONE of those six, Inouye (who is seeking re-election for a ninth term in November), remains in the Senate.
On the timing of financial reform's final passage, NBC's Luke Russert says the House could go as early as Tuesday but probably no later than Wednesday.