Commentary: A new day on Capitol Hill

This editorial appeared in The Macon Telegraph.

There are a few interesting signs that Washington, hearing the rumbles of the Nov. 4 election, is attempting to set the stage for a flurry of activity, and there are new faces leading key committees that should help push the agenda set by President-elect Barack Obama.

First, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest serving senator in history and chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee stepped down. Byrd, who turned 91 Thursday, has been in the Senate since 1959. Byrd was replaced the Friday after the election by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, seven years Byrd's junior. Byrd has served on appropriations for 50 years. While his health was cited as the reason for him stepping aside, it may have been to avoid the embarrassment of being forced out. Byrd will still chair a subcommittee of appropriations and will have some say over where dollars flow.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Byrd was the first legislator to bring home pork worth $1 billion. "They call me 'The Pork King,' Byrd is quoted as saying, "they don't know how much I enjoy it." According to the CAGW, Byrd pulled down $386 million in pork in 2008.

On the same day Byrd stepped aside, news hit Washington that Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the longest serving Republican in the Senate (40 years), had lost his re-election bid.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Macon Telegraph.