Byrd will be replaced by an appointed Senator for the next two years. Since West Virginia has a Democratic Governor, the partisan balance of the Senate won’t be disturbed. But other things will be.
It is highly unlikely that Byrd’s replacement will have any of Byrd’s committee chairmanships or responsibilities and certainly none of the respect bestowed on the late Senator. West Virginia will lose its greatest advocate and will sorely miss its longest serving Senator. Byrd was committed to reducing the state’s immense poverty through his role as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Moreover, he was devoted to the Constitution and the institution of the Senate. His sound leadership (and poetic prose) will be missed throughout the Senate and across the aisle.
It will be a difficult feat to fill the shoes of Senator Byrd. This two year transition period may give Governor Manchin, who has shown interest in the office but has already said he won’t appoint himself, a chance to escape the direct shadow of Byrd and shape his own objectives during a campaign. Manchin made the right decision because he would ruin his chances if he appointed himself and attempted to live up to Byrd immediately following his death.