Current and former Senators joined Sen. Robert Byrd’s family in a closed ceremony on the Senate floor Thursday to honor their longtime colleague, who died Monday at 92.
Members, led by Vice President Joseph Biden and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), gathered in the chamber at 10:30 a.m. for a prayer delivered by Chaplain Barry Black, who noted the West Virginia Democrat’s “indefatigable commitment to the principles of freedom that make America great.
“Thank you for blessing us with his passion for history and his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom in his quest to keep our nation strong,” Black said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and a large bipartisan group of Senators, many who served years with Byrd during his five decades in Congress, were present for the private prayer service. Afterward, the Senate galleries were opened to the press and public. Numerous current and former Byrd staffers observed the proceedings from the rafters as Byrd’s family, including his daughters Mona Byrd Fatemi and Marjorie Byrd Moore and their husbands, along with his six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, received visitors on the floor. Family members were seated in leather chairs next to Byrd’s flag-draped coffin, which stood on the historic Lincoln catafalque in front of the Senate dais and was guarded by formally dressed Capitol Police officers.
Justice Antonin Scalia, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) were among those who paid their respects. Numerous House Members also attended.
Byrd, who was the longest-serving Member in U.S. history, is the first Senator to lie in repose in that chamber since 1959, coincidentally the same year he came to the Senate.