Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today released a statement following the news that Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) passed away earlier this morning.
"This morning, the Senate lost its guardian, West Virginia lost a champion, and many of us lost a teacher. When I first came to the Senate, Robert Byrd was our Minority Leader. Our class of freshly minted Senators wasn't lacking in ambition or agenda. We'd all campaigned on long lists of policy ideas we exuberantly believed we'd pass into law immediately. Leader Byrd took the time to meet with all the freshmen individually, listened to us, helped us with our Committee assignments, and took particular care to instruct us on something we'd thought very little about: our responsibility to be caretakers of the institution. He helped us see a bigger picture about this place. Much has been made about Robert Byrd's habit of carrying a pocket-sized Constitution and delivering fabled exhortations about history. But those details don't capture fully his deep commitment to an institution he loved deeply for 51 years. He saw reflected in every Senator the highest hopes of the Constitution's framers.
"Robert Byrd did more thinking and reevaluating in his eighties and nineties than many Senators do in a lifetime. He surprised many with his fierce opposition to the war in Iraq and the evolving views about energy and climate change he articulated even in his last year in the Senate. On these and so many occasions, he was prescient. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions, he was one of a rare group of senior voices whose thoughtful speeches could bring the entire Senate to a halt as we leaned in to listen. He cared immensely about his country and fought as proudly for his state as any Senator in our history. He leaves behind a remarkable example of what it means to be an engaged public citizen.
"Teresa and I send our love and prayers to Senator Byrd's daughters, Mona and Marjorie, and to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren at this difficult time."