WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving member of Congress in history with more than 57 years in the House and Senate, has been hospitalized and is "seriously ill," his office said Sunday.
The 92-year-old lawmaker was admitted to a Washington-area hospital late last week suffering from what a spokesman said was believed to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration as a result of the high temperatures in the nation's capital.
Byrd initially was expected to remain in the hospital a few days, but other ailments have developed that have led to his condition being described as "serious," his spokesman said.
If Byrd were unable to serve out his term for health reasons, a vacancy likely would have no bearing on the partisan split in the chamber. West Virginia law would require Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, to appoint someone to serve out the remaining 21/2 years of Byrd's record ninth term. No special election would be held to replace him.
Byrd, a former Senate majority leader, is legendary for his oratory and his mastery at delivering government funds to his state, where dozens of projects bear his name. In November, he became the nation's longest-serving lawmaker. Byrd entered the House on Jan. 3, 1953, and joined the Senate six years later.
He belonged to the Ku Klux Klan during the 1940s, a membership he later said he regretted, and joined other Southerners in filibustering against major civil rights bills during the 1960s.
In 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama for president.
Byrd has been the longest-serving senator since June 2006 and was elected to an unprecedented ninth term in November 2006. His colleagues have elected him to more leadership positions than any senator in history. He has cast more than 18,000 votes and has a nearly 98 percent attendance record over the course of his career.
His wife, Erma, died in 2006.
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Information from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post was used in the report.