Sen. Robert Byrd Taken to Hospital After Fall

Longest-Serving Senator Will Stay a Few Days in Hospital After Fall, Infection


Sept. 22, 2009—

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., will remain in the hospital for "a few days" after falling down Tuesday morning in his Northern Virginia home, his office said in a statement.

In addition to his fall, the 91-year-old senator has an elevated white cell count, a possible sign of an infection.

"Byrd was taken to the hospital this morning as a precautionary measure following a fall at his home which was likely caused by standing up too quickly. While having no broken bones or bruises, upon examination, doctors found an elevated white-blood cell count which can be an early sign of an infection," the statement said.

"Therefore, his doctors have determined that Byrd should remain in the hospital for antibiotic treatment and observation. Senator Byrd is in good spirits and expressed his disappointment that he was unable to join all his Senate colleagues this afternoon for the biennial Senate photo."

Neighbors told ABC affiliate WJLA the senator had several ambulances outside his residence in McLean, Va., this morning.

Byrd was elected for a ninth term in 2006 and is the longest serving senator in history, having served more than 50 years.

Known for his oratory skills, Byrd stepped down from his powerful position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee last November, but has remained visible on Capitol Hill. As the longest-serving Democrat, he is still the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which puts him third in line of presidential succession after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Byrd has faced a spate of health problems in recent years. This summer he was hospitalized for several weeks for staph infection. He appeared on the Senate floor in July to vote against an amendment to strip $1.75 billion out of the Defense Authorization bill for the F-22 fighter jet.

He also returned earlier this month to pay a tribute to his friend, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died in his Massachusetts home in August.

Democrats are counting on Byrd's vote to get a health care reform bill passed in the Senate as chances of bipartisan support thus far are bleak.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.