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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 10, 2008 11:03 AM

D.C. eyes Murray as Byrd ails

Posted by David Postman

There is a small flurry of stories out of D.C. looking at the future of Sen. Robert Byrd and what that could mean to his protege, Washington Sen. Patty Murray.

Politico says the stories “were floated” because of “agitation in the party’s ranks over whether the West Virginian would be able to manage an upcoming wartime spending bill.”

Senate Democrats keep muttering about their 90-year-old chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, but no one wants to bell the cat.

Murray has more senior Democrats ahead of her in terms of who would become chairman if Byrd stepped aside, or got shoved aside. Politico says she’s “far enough down the line that she isn’t a threatening figure” to Byrd.

“Sen. Byrd has meant so much to the Senate,” she said. “We all owe him respect for that and allow him to make his decisions.”

In comments to CQ Politics, Murray made it clear she was not interested in pushing Byrd to do anything.
“We’re all doing our job so that he can do his,” Murray said. “The future role of Sen. Byrd will depend on Sen. Byrd.”

But if someone has to step in to manage that war spending bill, it likely will be Murray. CQ Politics says:

Murray, a former chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, came to the forefront last year when she was selected to be floor manager of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, which was drafted by the subcommittee Byrd chairs. The bill was later wrapped into an omnibus (PL 110-161). She also helped manage the previous war supplemental (PL 110-28).

At the time, senior Democrats said Murray had been selected for the showcase role because of her standing as a party leader, her seniority on appropriations and her close ties to Byrd.

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