Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced today that he plans to step aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and hand the gavel to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). The statement does not address what, if any, changes might be in store for the defense subcommittee, which Inouye chairs. A Senate source on the appropriations committee said that Inouye may hold both positions if he chooses. Byrd, who has served as chairman for 10 of the 50 years he has served on the appropriations committee, will remain on the panel and continue to chair the homeland security subcommittee. In a statement, Byrd said:
A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009. I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate. I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.