Byrd was dubbed the "King of Pork" and damned proud wearing that mantel no matter how hard the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste tried to embarrass him. Byrd even flipped the bird at his detractors.
I come before you today not to bury or malign the longest serving senator in United States history but to reflect on the impact he bestowed on his fellow West Virginians, recipients of more federal money than any of the other 49 states.
Robert Byrd was old school politician. Until stepping down two years ago as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he served as a member for 49 years, he doled out at least $5.5 billion in projects for West Virginia.
And that was only since 1991 which the watchdog group tracked. It does not include $1.2 billion from 1995 to 2008 in projects the group claims most likely attributed to Byrd.
Whether West Virginia voters endorsed their senator's political stands on other issues, it didn't matter for he was their rainmaker and why he was elected a record nine terms.
Even as age was wearing down the old warhorse, the last two budget sessions of 2008 and 2006 indicates he was still on his game.
In 2008, Byrd sent $326 million to West Virginia which was $179.80 per person. It ranked 4th nationally. The national average was $33.77 per person.
In 2006, it was $239 million in pork projects that amounted to $131.58 per person when the national average for all other states was $30.55.
Let's put aside all the statues, monuments, roads, highways, bridges and buildings named after Sen. Robert Carlyle Byrd in West Virginia. In stead, let's peek at the year 2005 for specific allocations he and his constituents deemed necessary to be paid by other people's money:
Agriculture -- $11,452,000
-$4,418,000 for the
of Excellence at WVU GIS Center
-$3,638,000 for the Appalachian Fruit Laboratory in Kearneysville
-$860,000 for Appalachian small farmer outreach
-$711,000 for aquaculture product and marketing development
-$654,000 for agriculture waste utilization research
-$569,000 for water pollutants research
-$300,000 for the Potomac and
Soil Nutrient Project Ohio River Basin
-$150,000 for turfgrass research in Beaver
Energy and Water -- $75,372,000
-$25,000,000 for the Marmet Lock on the
-$9,000,000 for the Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory Training Facility at
dam safety Bluestone Lake
-$59,000 for Island Creek at
Interior -- $18,066,000
-$4,275,000 for the
New River Gorge National River
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
-$1,086,000 for molecular biology and a water resource study at
Leetown Science Center
-$1,000,000 for freshwater mussel recovery and the
at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery Wild Fish Propagation Center
Labor/HHS -- $56,528,000
-$20 million for WVU to construct a
Biomedical Science Research Center
-$4 million for
to construct the Allied Health Technology Tower Mountain State University
-$2 million for
for a mobile medical unit that will provide pediatric care to children in rural areas of Wayne, Lincoln, and Cabell counties Marshall University
-$1,050,000 for the
High Technology Consortium Foundation West Virginia
-$135,000 for the
Kanawha County Board of Education for the Technology Project Herbert Hoover High School
Military Construction -- $23,150,000
-$13 million for a C-5 airport parking apron/hydrant system at
in Martinsburg Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport
-$6 million for a fire crash rescue station at Yeager Air National Guard Base
-$4,150,000 for a C-5 flight simulator at
in Martinsburg Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport
Transportation/Treasury -- $95,350,000
-$15 million for the
King Cole Highway in Mingo County
-$15 million for Corridor H
-$3 million for improvements to U.S. Route 35 in
-$1.4 million for WVU’s Exhaust Emissions Testing Initiative
-$750,000 for the I-95/West
Drive Interchange Virginia
-$200,000 for street scape improvements in Berkeley Springs, which offers visitors “state-of-the-art spas, unique shops and local arts, all surrounded by West Virginia’s splendid outdoors.”
Veterans Affairs/HUD -- $61,429,250
-$4,296,000 for the Vandalia Heritage Foundation
-$2,037,000 for Glenville State College for the construction of a new campus community center and the planning and design of a new science center
-$1,250,000 for the McDowell County Commission for infrastructure and site development at
Indian Ridge Industrial Park
for downtown revitalization Beckley
-$657,000 for the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation in Lewisburg for facilities construction
-$97,000 for the Strand Theatre Preservation Society in Moundsville for theatre renovations
-$97,000 for the Tyler County Commission for facilities construction and renovations
-$72,750 for the
Wetzel County 4-H Camp in for facilities renovation. Martinsville
Sen. Byrd was the "conscience" of the U.S. Senate who rewrote Senate rules and carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his coat pocket at all times.
But most of all he was the gravy train express for West Virginia and the epitome of when all is said and done the only thing that matters is looking out for the people who got him there.
My condolences to the Byrd family and the people of West Virginia. The obituary I have written is not an indictment of the man who died at age 92. It is the portrayal of a political reality in which our system of governance works in the narrow prism of pork and earmarks. For a man who prided himself on the rule of law and the constitution, Sen. Byrd turned his back on a process by abusing power as a senior committee member and condoning the practice of earmarks allowing federal money spent without a hearing. But it is a proven process in Congress where deals are made under the umbrella that if you vote for my project, I'll vote for your lousy bridge to no where in some other state.