Sen. Byrd leaving chairmanship

November 7, 2008 11:53:40 AM PST
Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history, is stepping down from his cherished post as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The 90-year-old West Virginia Democrat has become increasingly frail in recent years, so the move didn't come as a surprise. Democratic leaders had sent signals that they hoped Byrd would step aside to make room for more active leadership on the panel, which is among the most important in Congress for its control over federal agencies' budgets.

Byrd has used the post to send billions of federal dollars to his state - for roads, universities, and economic development projects.

Byrd has chaired the panel or been it's top minority party member for 20 years. Before that, he was the Senate's Democratic leader for 12 years.