Gov. Joe Manchin won't search for a Senate replacement for Robert Byrd until Wednesday, he tells the AP/Charleston Gazette:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin does not expect to start searching for a successor to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd until after the longest-serving senator in history is laid to rest next week.
Manchin said he's instead focused on comforting Byrd's family and staff, and preparing the West Virginia memorial scheduled for Friday for the iconic figure who died Monday at 92 after years of frail health.
"Wednesday will be soon enough to start,'' Manchin told The Associated Press referring to next week. "I'm not thinking about starting the process until after Tuesday. Otherwise, I think it would be so disrespectful.''
Byrd will be interred next Tuesday alongside his wife of nearly 69 years, Erma, in Arlington, Va. A grandson is also buried at that cemetery, near the senator's Beltway residence. The governor said he and First Lady Gayle Manchin plan to attend.
There is reason -- after Byrd's burial -- for Democrats to want a replacement sooner rather than later. With Byrd gone, Republicans (with the help of Democrat Ben Nelson) last night were able by one vote to filibuster against an extention of unemployment benefits. From TPM:
Of course, it requires 60 votes to break a filibuster, meaning Democrats were two votes shy. So why does this fall on Ben Nelson? When a cloture vote fails, the Majority Leader often switches his vote from yes to no. But he's not joining the filibuster. It's a parliamentary maneuver that allows him to bring the issue back to the floor easily at a later time, without having to go through the longer process of filing for cloture again.
That's what happened last night. With the death of Robert Byrd, Democrats have 58 voting members. Last night, they were joined by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). That would have brought them to 60, breaking the filibuster...but Nelson said no. He's opposed the legislation repeatedly on the grounds that it's not completely paid for (though emergency extensions of unemployment benefits are often not paid for). He brought Democrats down to 59 votes -- one short of the supermajority they needed -- and because of that, Reid changed his vote, drawing the total down to 58.