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BLOG: Byrd's role in the Senate

Tom Jackson • Jun 28, 2010 at 4:14 PM

By now, if you pay attention to politics, you've heard that U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, 92, has died. And if you've read anything about the West Virginia Democrat, you probably know that he helped preserve the Senate's traditions.

A story that U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., once told me illustrates Byrd's role. He said Byrd taught him that senators are supposed to be partisan without being mean-spirited about it.

Inhofe, conservative even by Oklahoma's standards, had served in the U.S. House before winning election to the Senate. Not long after he became a U.S. senator, Inhofe delivered an angry, blistering speech on the Senate floor.

"Young man," Byrd said to Inhofe afterward (Inhofe is 75), "you gave a good speech."

But Byrd went on to explain that the Senate is different from the House, and that the members tried to get along. Inhofe said he listened, and discovered he could express his views while still being on good terms with everyone, even the liberal Democrats.

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