Democrat veteran's death threatens to derail President's landmark finance Bill

Washington is mourning Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in US history and unswerving defender of Congress and its constitutional prerogatives, who died yesterday at the age of 92.

Senator after senator took time out at the start of the confirmation hearings of the Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, to pay tribute to their late Democratic colleague, while flags flew at half mast on Capitol Hill, where Mr Byrd represented West Virginia for 57 years – the first six in the House of Representatives and the rest as a nine-times elected senator.

"He held the deepest respect of members of both parties, and he was generous with his time and advice, something I appreciated greatly as a young senator," President Barack Obama said of Mr Byrd, who had long been in frail health. He was taken to hospital last week suffering from heat exhaustion, as temperatures had approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Washington area.

But, even as it paid its respects to a vanished titan, Washington was busy calculating the political consequences of his death – in particular the implications for the key financial regulatory reform Bill that Mr Obama was hoping to sign before Congress begins its Independence Day recess this weekend. The House and Senate have agreed a final version of the measure, which has a smattering of Republican support. Even so, Senate Republicans are within a vote or two of the 41 required to mount a filibuster to block the measure's passage.

The loss of Mr Byrd has raised fears that, for the second time this year, the death of a prominent Democratic senator could bring down one of the White House's priority legislative initiatives: healthcare reform came within an ace of disaster in January, when Republicans captured the Massachusetts seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy.

The chances are, however, that Senator Byrd's death will delay, but not derail, the financial Bill, considered the biggest overhaul of the rules governing the banking and investment industry since the Great Depression. Republicans might now on paper have the votes to block it – but at the risk of being portrayed by Democrats as being in the pocket of Wall Street, just months before mid-term Congressional elections. For that reason, analysts reckon that one or two hostile Republicans may relent, to allow the Bill to pass.

In the longer term, Republicans may be the gainers. A temporary successor to Mr Byrd will be appointed by the state's Democratic governor, Joe Manchin. He or she will undoubtedly be a Democrat. But whether Democrats can hang on to the seat in an election is another matter. Democrats have long dominated state politics, but Republicans carried West Virginia in the last three presidential elections.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence