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Inouye now president pro-tempore of the Senate

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Senator Dan Inouye

Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Following the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel K. Inouye was sworn in Monday as president pro-tempore of the Senate.

That means Inouye, 85, is now third in line to become president should President Obama be unable to fulfill his duties. Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are ahead of Inouye in the line of succession.

Although the president pro-tem role is largely ceremonial and reserved for the most senior senator of the majority party, Inouye will preside over the Senate in the absence of the vice president.

Inouye led a Senate session Monday afternoon that included a long moment of silence for the late West Virginia senator and floor statements in his honor.

Inouye also now has 24-hour security and is expected to be briefed Tuesday at the White House on communication and security details.

In 2008, Inouye succeeded Byrd as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and is now the most senior member of the U.S. Senate.

Elected in 1962, Hawaii’s Medal of Honor recipient is the longest-serving current senator. Byrd was sworn in exactly four years before Inouye and served 51 years, five months and 26 days.

Sen. Daniel Inouye’s statement

My heart is heavy with sadness following the passing of a dear friend, Robert C. Byrd, Senator from West Virginia.

We have been friends for nearly 50 years and I am overcome with memories. Nearly 48 years ago, Senator Byrd was one of the first to greet me in the chamber of the United States Senate.

Since that first moment of friendship we have worked together on many projects. And since those early days, I have called him, ‘my leader.’

He was my mentor. Over the years he provided me countless opportunities and tasked me with positions of critical national oversight while guiding my actions with the temperance he learned as the longest serving Senator in history.

He was a Senator’s Senator. His many accomplishments were historic and he fought tirelessly to improve the lives of working families in West Virginia. We shared the belief that we must provide for the people who trust us to represent their communities in Washington.

I owe much to my leader, Senator Byrd. He will forever have my gratitude and respect and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with the Byrd family during this difficult time.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka’s statement

I rise to pay tribute to Senator Robert C. Byrd, my mentor, supporter and good friend.

Senator Byrd was the Dean of the Senate, our foremost constitutional scholar. No one in the history of our country served longer in Congress. For more than half a century, Robert Byrd kept the Senate in line. He always kept a copy of the constitution in his jacket pocket – close to his heart. He was meticulous, a master of the rules of this historic institution. Through hard work and dedication, Senator Byrd became an institution himself.

When I joined the Senate 20 years ago, to my great fortune, Senator Byrd took me under his wing. He guided me through procedural rules and taught me how to preside over the floor. I still have the notes he gave me when I was a freshman Senator. He was adamant that the presiding officer should always be respectful of the speakers, while maintaining strict adherence to the rules of the Senate.

Senator Robert Byrd was a patriot who cared for and loved this country, the United States of America. He worked hard for the people of West Virginia, who showed their support for him election after election.

Senator Robert Byrd was a spiritual man. Each week, a number of Senators get together for a morning prayer breakfast. Senator Bryd was a regular participant when he was well. His favorite hymn was “Old Rugged Cross.” I enjoyed singing it with him many times.

We shared a love for music and the arts. His fiddle playing was legendary.

He loved his family. He loved his children and grand children, he loved his dogs, and closest always was his wife Erma, who was always by his side until her death in 2006. They spent many wonderful years together, and now they are together again.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Byrd family.

Senator Bird, we love you, and we miss you.

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