This came in from our DC correspondent, Les Blumenthal:
Though the scenario seems a little far-fetched, the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico reported today Sen. Patty Murray may be named "acting chairman" of the Senate Appropriations Committee replacing an aging West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd.
Byrd would become "chairman emeritus" of the committee which controls close to $1 trillion in spending annually.
Murray, not surprisingly, denies the report.
"There is absolutely nothing to it," Murray, D-Wash., said in an interview. "I am doing my job on leadership and the appropriations team and that is what I am focused on."
Of course, senators don’t talk about such things publicly, and the Politico story is based on quotes from unidentified senators and Senate aides. But it is no secret that Byrd at age 90 has slowed down and Murray has, at times, subbed for him on the Senate floor, handling such bills as an Iraq supplemental earlier this year.
Politico said there was "broad discontent" among appropriations committee members with Byrd’s performance as chairman this year. One aide was quoted as saying replacing Byrd has been discussed for the past several weeks.
Murray would replace Byrd (that’s him on the far right of the picture) until the current session of Congress ends at the end of next year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who would have a huge say, opposes replacing Byrd, the story said. And a Byrd spokesman said the senator has "every intention" of continuing to serve as chairman.
Six others senators on the committee have more seniority than Murray, but the article said they might not want to give up their current chairmanships, or the Democratic caucus may find them unacceptable. They include Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl.
But Politico quoted Democratic insiders as saying Murray could become the "odds-on" favorite to replace Byrd at least as acting chairman.