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Senator Byrd's Death May Hold Up Passage of Reform Bill

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With the death of Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) at 92 in the early hours of Monday, June 28, the longest serving senator in U.S. history, questions remain as to when a replacement will be named and whether his passing will complicate passage of the financial services reform bill.

Joseph Lieber with Washington Analysis, a Washington-based think tank, cautioned that there was “a possibility that [Congress] might have to wait until after the July 4th recess to get this [reform bill] done.” First, he said, “they have to wait until Byrd’s funeral for the Democratic governor to appoint a successor.” Moreover, Lieber says, “Scott Brown [R-Massachusetts] is wavering in his support for the bill, and Sen. [Chuck] Grassley of Iowa is also voicing concerns.” If Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) are not convinced to switch their opposition to the reform bill, he continues, “there is also the possibility they could be forced to open up the conference to make changes.”

Regan Lachapelle, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, told Investment Advisor in an e-mail message that the Senate “will await action by the House, but it is still possible that we will consider the conference report this week.”

Jake Glace, communications specialist for West Virginia’s Secretary of State’s office, says that “on top of mourning the loss of a wonderful person, there are several sections of code that deal with transitions and appointments and timelines in general, and we are taking a look at every one of those sections to ensure that anything we release [regarding] a timeline [for a replacement] will be correct for this office at this time.” While the duty of selecting an interim successor belongs to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, a Democrat, Glace says the Secretary of State’s office will release a statement later today announcing its full intentions on how it will proceed post Byrd’s death.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada noted in a June 28 statement on Byrd’s passing, Byrd was a member of “Congress for more than a quarter of the time it has existed, and longer than a quarter of today’s sitting Senators and the President of the United States have been alive. The nine times the people of his state sent him to the Senate and the more than 18,500 votes he cast in its chamber will never be matched. His political career spanned a dozen presidencies and countless American advances and achievements.”

Reid noted that throughout one of the longest political careers in history, “no one ever defeated Robert Byrd in a single election.”