Sen. Byrd Is Home After 6-Week Stay In Hospital

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) was released from the hospital yesterday after a six-week stay, his office announced, allowing the longest-serving senator in U.S. history to spend the Fourth of July weekend at home.

"I am pleased to be home in anticipation of celebrating our nation's birthday with my loving family," Byrd said in a statement. "I also thank everyone who sent me their good wishes and prayers."

Byrd "will continue his recuperation and physical therapy" at home, the statement said. His office declined to comment on when he might return to work in the Senate.

Byrd, 91, was first hospitalized May 15 for a "minor infection," but then contracted a staph infection and remained in the hospital until yesterday. At the request of his family, Byrd's office has given few details to the news media, declining to specify why he was hospitalized initially or which hospital he was admitted to.

As early as May 18, his office suggested that he could be home in a matter of days, but as his stay lengthened and details remained scarce, speculation surfaced in the West Virginia media about who might succeed him in office. If Byrd were unable to return to the Senate, a successor appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) would hold the seat until a special election in November 2010.

Many West Virginia observers say Manchin himself is interested in the Senate seat. Though he can appoint himself to the position, it is more likely, they say, that Manchin will appoint a "caretaker" to the job who would not run in 2010, allowing the governor to campaign for the post.

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