Byrd's Seat to Remain Empty for Now

By: LAWRENCE MESSINA - Associated Press Writer
By: LAWRENCE MESSINA - Associated Press Writer

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin doesn't expect to start searching for a successor to the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd until after the longest-serving senator in history is buried next week.

Manchin says next Wednesday is soon enough to begin considering appointees. The governor says starting any earlier would be disrespectful.

Byrd died Monday at 92. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. next Tuesday at Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. Byrd will be interred alongside his wife Erma in Arlington.

Manchin says he's focused on comforting Byrd's family and longtime staffers. His office is also planning memorials in West Virginia to Byrd.

The vacancy affects the Democrats' slim Senate majority, and the fate of the Obama administration's proposed financial overhaul.

At the same time, Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office is reviewing a decision over the process for picking Byrd's successor.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes said Tuesday a look at Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's decision is necessary to make sure it is legally sound and supported by case law.

Tennant announced Monday the person picked by Gov. Joe Manchin to fill Byrd's seat won't have to face a special election until November 2012 for the remaining two months of Byrd's term. An election will also be held then for a new six-year term.

Tennant said election laws and a 1994 state Supreme Court ruling were studied, and she decided not to seek an opinion from McGraw's office or the court before making the decision.

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