Vol IV, No. 1 │ January 2017
In This Issue:
Senator Byrd's Centennial Year and Beyond
Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers Open for Research
Upcoming Traveling Exhibit Venues and our Spring Film Series
In Defense of the Senate
Senator Byrd, Budget Reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule
The Byrd Call │January 2017
Table of Contents
Celebrating Senator Byrd's Centennial Year and Beyond
FEATURE: In Defense of the Senate: Senator Byrd, Budget Reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule
Full Speed Ahead: The Byrd Exhibit Continues Traversing West Virginia
Spring Film Series Begins in February
New Collection Opens for Research
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Senator Byrd's Centennial Year and Beyond
When Senator Byrd came to the Shepherd University campus to dedicate the Byrd Center in August 2002, he was pleased to see an expanded and modernized Shepherd University Library three times the size of the old structure and ready for the Twenty-first Century. The Byrd Center, an archival facility with classrooms and an auditorium would be part of this new library facility, and it would house Senator Byrd’s vast archive of sixty years in public life. Later we would acquire the political papers of other West Virginia legislators that complement the Senator’s papers.
At that dedication, Senator Byrd spoke of the importance of education about the Constitution and the role of government as being the single most important thing that defines citizenship. Without informed citizens the nation would be at risk, he said. What he said that day echoed the words of the Founders of this nation who believed the new government they created would succeed only as long as citizens were knowledgeable about it.
Byrd spoke at a time when the United States was on the eve of the War in Iraq. He was one of the few who spoke out against that war because Congress, and his beloved Senate, was not doing its job of even debating the matter. He had this impending war in mind when he said at the Byrd Center dedication “When it comes to forming judgments about foreign policy and rights of the citizenry, Americans should not have to take the word of politicians. Libraries can help people to be armed and
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Senator Byrd (in light blue suit) prepares to cut the ribbon dedicating the Byrd Center, Aug. 22, 2002.
By Ray Smock
Ray Smock describes the large approp- riations project map from Senator Byrd's office to exhibit visitors at WVU in November 2016.
informed with enough information to cut through the fog, to discern the truth, and to see through attempts at public manipulation.”
This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Senator Byrd’s birth on November 20, 2017. It is a grand time for the state of West Virginia and the nation to reflect on the remarkable career of Senator Byrd. Our traveling exhibit on the senator’s career continues its tour around the state. It began its tour last April and it will culminate on the 100th anniversary of his birth on Nov. 20, 2017, with a gala celebration in Charleston, WV at the Culture Center, where the exhibit will officially end its tour.
The Byrd Center takes Senator Byrd’s admonition to arm ourselves with knowledge and information as the best tools of citizenship and as the best way to preserve the Great Experiment in Government called the United States of America. This is the goal of all our public programs, our documentary films, our distinguished speakers, and our own teaching and research.
Here at the Byrd Center we have produced the standard reference on Congressional Investigations, a two-volume compilation of research by top experts that goes from the
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first Congressional Investigation in 1792 up through the Hurricane Katrina Inquiry of 2005-06. Researchers have used our collections to study not only Senator Byrd’s career but the congressional appropriations process, foreign policy matters like the Panama Canal Treaties, and, of course, to learn about Senator Byrd’s impact on the State of West Virginia.
This year the Byrd Center will also launch a major effort to ensure that Senator Byrd’s legacy, his large and rich archive of papers that we curate, and the public programs and educational outreach of the Byrd Center can continue for many years to come. We will be
engaging in our first major effort to raise funds for our continuing work.
This campaign will have two aspects to it. The first will be the establishment of the Friends of the Byrd Center. For a donation of $100, in recognition of the Byrd Centennial, the Friends group will help us maintain our public programs, film series, and our preservation efforts on Senator Byrd’s vast collection of papers that tell the story of West Virginia and the nation during the second half of the Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-first.
It is incumbent upon us to embark upon this campaign and plan for the long range success of the Center’s educational programs, and to expand them throughout the state. Senator Byrd now belongs to the ages, but his legacy and his life’s work, and his place in history as the “soul of the Senate” during his tenure there is something that should live on for what it can teach us about the U.S. Constitution and the Congress and what it can teach us about the value of good government and respect for our governmental institutions that was a hallmark of Senator Byrd’s career.
We hope in the Centennial Year of Senator Byrd’s birth that you will become a Friend of the Byrd Center and help us continue public education about government and the Constitution. Senator Byrd was not exaggerating when he said, “The front lines against threats to America will be formed in the quiet halls of the Shepherd College Library.” Shepherd is a university now, but the message remains the same. Knowledge is power. Informed citizens make our country strong.
Ray Smock (left) and Senator Byrd meet in the Byrd Center during his visit to Shepherd University in 2005 to deliver the inaugural Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the Constitution.
The second part of our fund-raising campaign will be to seek major gifts from both corporate and private individuals, who are willing to recognize and support the significance of Senator Byrd’s legacy, his contributions to the state and the nation, as well as the work of the Byrd Center going forward. The Byrd Center is a private, not-for-profit, non-partisan organization. Contributions to the Byrd Center are tax-deductible.
While we are on the campus of Shepherd University, our staff and our mission are not funded by state appropriations. Senator Byrd selected Shepherd to be the home of his congressional archive because if its close proximity to the many resources on government at the Library of Congress, the National Archives and other major institutions.
We are very proud of our close ties to Shepherd University, our role in the intellectual life of the campus, our enrichment programs for students and the public, and our newest program to help train West Virginia teachers about best practices in teaching about the U.S. Constitution and the three branches of the federal government.
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By Jay Wyatt
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In Defense of the Senate
Senator Byrd, Budget Reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule
Senate and House Democratic leadership and budget committee members conference in 1980, including Senator Edmund Muskie (2nd from left), House Majority Leader Jim Wright (5th from left), Senate Minority Leader Byrd (center), Senate Minority Whip Alan Cranston (right of Senator Byrd), and House Majority Whip John Brademas (foreground).
In February 2009, as Democratic leaders were developing a game plan for shepherding the comprehensive health care legislation that eventually became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the Senate, Senator Robert C. Byrd testified before the Senate Budget Committee. Byrd, the Senate’s elder statesman and one of its foremost authorities on rules and parliamentary procedure, spoke briefly about the ills of budget reconciliation, a tool used by both parties to circumvent the regular rules of the Senate by advancing budget-related legislation through an expedited budget process.
The West Virginia senator lamented that the provisions of reconciliation, which cap the amount of time for debating a bill at twenty hours and enable bills to pass with a simple majority, required senators to “cast votes on nearly anonymous, and potentially dangerous, amendments without adequate time for debate and understanding.” This, Byrd explained, represented a hazardous misapplication of a process established by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (Congressional Budget Act) to simply “allow for last-minute adjustments between two or more budget resolutions in a fiscal year.” Several weeks later, Senator Byrd argued in the Washington Post that “the misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation … to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role” and that putting health-care legislation “on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted.”
Senator Byrd supported President Barack Obama’s push to enact major health-care reform. He famously invoked the name of his late friend and colleague, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a longtime proponent of health care reform, while enthusiastically voting in favor of the bill with a rousing “aye!” on Christmas eve 2009. The senator also helped establish a provision within the ACA making it easier for coal miners to gain Black Lung-related disability benefits. But it likely surprised few on Capitol Hill that he took such an outspoken stand against using budget reconciliation to advance such an important piece of legislation. Byrd had played a primary role in reforming the budget process during the 1970s, and he’d consistently spoken out against the misuse of reconciliation by either party during the ensuing decades.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on the Standing Rules of the Senate in 1974, Senator Byrd oversaw much of the work that went into crafting the Congressional Budget Act. The act
aimed to strengthen the legislative branch’s power of the purse and was part of a broader reform movement in Congress during the early 1970s. It was largely driven by a desire to better control federal spending, especially as it related to running budget deficits, and to halt the withholding or “impounding” by President Richard Nixon of congressionally appropriated funds for programs President Nixon did not support. Many in Congress viewed Nixon’s actions as executive overreach that needed taming. However, it was also apparent that, in failing to develop the necessary structures for establishing its own spending priorities, previous Congresses had gradually ceded the power to frame the debate on budget issues to the executive branch.
By his own account, Senator Byrd “led 90 hours of meetings, during 25 sessions, over a 16-day period” and co-authored the Budget Act. As the majority whip, he managed the Senate’s floor deliberations on the bill before finally serving on the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate versions
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and paved the way for President Nixon’s signature in July 1974.
The new law established strict methods for controlling presidential impoundments and empowered Congress to set its own spending targets through budget resolutions, which provide a strong framework for guiding action on spending and revenue bills. The act established dedicated budget committees in the House and Senate, tasking each with analyzing the entire federal budget. To aid in this process, it also established the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an independent and nonpartisan organization that has since provided Congress with reports and analyses on budgetary issues.
The Budget Act did provide Congress with increased power to dictate federal fiscal policy, and it did significantly curtail presidential impoundments. But the act did not truly simplify the budget process, and it did not, in
and of itself, ensure deficit reductions would be achieved. After all, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate still had to debate what programs, projects, and initiatives the federal government would and would not fund, and at what levels.
As partisan rancor increased during the late twentieth century, battles over the federal budget took on sharply partisan forms. The Senate, with its tradition of unlimited debate, has traditionally stood as a bulwark against the “tyranny of the majority.” Members of the minority party can block any legislation they oppose by using the filibuster. The looming threat of a filibuster is supposed to force the majority party members to consider the minority perspective and work through their policy differences in order to reach a bipartisan compromise. This is especially the case on nationally significant legislation such as the
Senator Byrd speaks on the floor of the United States Senate.
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annual budget. Unfortunately, this has not happened in recent decades, as Senate Democrats and Republicans alike have increasingly relied on reconciliation, with its mechanisms for circumventing a filibuster and gaining passage with only a simple majority. Such budgets strongly represent the fiscal and policy goals of the majority party alone.
An optional part of the budget process, reconciliation only occurs if Congress includes instructions in a budget resolution that direct specific House and Senate committees to develop legislation designed to meet the fiscal targets. As part of the reconciliation instructions, House and Senate committees are frequently required to submit new legislation to their respective budget committee. The budget committees then in turn pool all of the new legislation into omnibus reconciliation bills, which are then considered under expedited procedures in each chamber. Once
passed, the House and Senate then reconcile any differences between the bills and send the resolved legislation to the president for his approval or a veto. Since 1980, twenty reconciliation bills have been enacted into law, while four have been vetoed.
Reconciliation was first used in a partisan manner in 1981, when Senate Republicans and a bipartisan House coalition used the procedure to force through $130 billion in spending cuts in the form of the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981. President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law alongside the Economic Recovery Tax Act, which provided what was at the time the largest tax cut in American history. The signing of both acts represented a significant step forward by the Reagan administration in fulfilling its campaign pledges to cut taxes and domestic spending. Democrats, including Senator Byrd, were incensed that
Congressional leadership meet with President Reagan and Vice President Bush in the summer of 1981.
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reconciliation, which was originally envisioned as a tool to strengthen the Congress’ position against the executive branch on budget issues, had been used to advance the president’s specific policy goals.
The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981 revealed how the process could be used to move controversial legislation through the Senate quickly. Subsequent reconciliation bills were passed in 1982, 1983, and 1984. During this period, Senate Democrats and Republicans increasingly added provisions and amendments into bills that had no direct effect on revenue or spending levels as a way to negate the filibuster threat and gain easier passage.
Senator Byrd took umbrage with these tactics, arguing on the Senate floor that the inclusion of “extraneous matter” in reconciliation bills
violated the original intent of the Budget Act and threatened the very deliberative nature of the Senate. In October 1985, Senator Byrd introduced the “Byrd Rule,” an amendment to the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985. The rule defined what provisions could be included in reconciliation bills and established mechanisms for striking those that did not meet the criteria. Under the Byrd Rule, a point of order can be raised to eliminate one or more provisions from a reconciliation bill as long as they do not produce an outlay increase or a revenue decrease, and if they depart from the original committee instructions, recommend changes to Social Security, or increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond the budget window covered by the measure. Motions to waive the Byrd Rule or to appeal the ruling on a point of order can be
gained with a three-fifths vote by the members, thus making it very difficult to avoid the Byrd Rule.
The Byrd Rule passed in a 96-0 vote in 1985, and was adopted on an annual basis through 1990 when it was finally made permanent. Between 1985 and 2015, Senators invoked the Byrd Rule as a point of order seventy times, and in sixty times those actions were sustained. Motions to waive the Byrd Rule have been less successful. Out of fifty-seven requests to wave the Byrd Rule, only nine were successful.
But while Democrats and Republicans have each utilized the Byrd Rule, members of both parties have been frustrated by its restrictive nature. One such instance occurred in 1994, as Democratic leaders sought a way to pass President Bill Clinton’s health care legislation.
With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate but lacking the necessary votes to shut down a Republican filibuster, President Clinton, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), and House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) each lobbied Senator Byrd to allow the controversial health care package to be included in the budget reconciliation bill and agree to not raising a point of order against it. Byrd rebuked their efforts on the grounds that he “could not in good conscience ... look the other way” and allow a “clear abuse of congressional intent to occur.” For the West Virginia senator, there was only one proper way for health care reform to advance through the Senate and that was by extended debate and deliberation under the institution’s regular rules of order. Without Byrd’s support, Democrats decided against using reconciliation
“Under our Constitution, under our rules, under our precedents, under our laws, it is the Senate that it supposed to ensure that complex bills have a thorough debate.”
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to move the Clinton health care bill. Later that year, a compromise bill introduced by George Mitchell failed.
The Byrd Rule emerged as an effective tool for keeping extraneous matter out of reconciliation bills during the 1990s, but the accumulation of budget surpluses during the decade’s latter years raised new questions. A primary aim of the Congressional Budget Act had been to help Congress control spending and reduce the national deficit, but with those goals achieved, members of Congress were divided as to whether budget bills that reduced government revenues by permanently cutting taxes could be passed using reconciliation. Those objecting to this approach, including Senator Byrd, claimed that any permanent tax cut proposal would not pass
under the Byrd Rule, since any federal revenue increases or decreases extending beyond the budget window (usually factored at ten years) were prohibited. The underlying argument was that any permanent tax cut or increase warranted full Senate consideration, which the reconciliation process did not provide for. As a compromise, sunset provisions limiting tax cuts to ten years were included in the Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999 and the Marriage Tax Relief and Reconciliation Act of 2000.
The Byrd Rule’s relative success did not lessen Senator Byrd’s disdain for what he considered the misuse of budget reconciliation. In the spring of 2001, in response to Republican efforts to enact
President George W. Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut, Byrd again took to the Senate floor. In a speech titled “Black Thursday,” the senator urged his colleagues to “protect the institution of the Senate” and reminded them that President Reagan’s massive 1981 tax cuts had passed without reconciliation. Continuing on, Byrd told his colleagues:
“The Senate is not a quivering body of humble subjects who must obey. We should not short-circuit debate on a bill that will hit home in the pocket book for decades to come.”
Senator Byrd lost that fight. Six days after his floor speech, the Senate passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. Two
years later, the Senate passed the second round of President Bush’s tax cuts in the form of the Jobs Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. But despite the setbacks, Senator Byrd refused to accede from his staunch belief that it was the duty and obligation of all Senators to fully debate any piece of nationally significant legislation under the Senate’s regular rules of order, not the expedited provisions of budget reconciliation. In 2009, he reminded Americans that “everyone likes to win … but tactics that ignore the means in pursuit of the ends are wrong when the outcome affects Americans’ health and economic security.”
“Using the reconciliation process to enact major legislation prevents an open debate about critical issues in full view of the public.”
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(L-R) John Cuthbert (WVU Libraries), Gordon Gee (President of WVU), Jay Wyatt (Byrd Center) and Ray Smock (Byrd Center) at the exhibit reception held at the Downtown Campus LIbrary at WVU in November.
The Byrd Center’s retrospective traveling exhibit Robert C. Byrd: Senator, Statesman, West Virginian will be on display at six locations across the central and western parts of West Virginia in the coming months. The exhibit is in demand and the tour gaining momentum as we begin 2017!
With two copies in circulation, we are excited to bring the exhibit to Wheeling Jesuit University and Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont this month. In February, the exhibit will move on to the Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins, and in March, the First National Bank of Williamson will welcome visitors interested in learning about the life and career of one of West Virginia’s favorite sons. As the weather
The Byrd Traveling Exhibit Continues Traversing West Virginia
Full Speed Ahead
turns in April and May, the exhibit will be on display at Marshall University’s John Deaver Drinko Library in Huntington and at the United Hospital Center in Bridgeport.
The exhibit tour will continue on through the summer and culminate with a gala event celebrating the centennial anniversary of Senator Byrd’s birth in November at the Culture Center in Charleston.
For more information on the traveling exhibit, please visit the Byrd Center website
The upcoming stops continue the exhibit tour after its successful opening leg, which included an exhibit premier at Shepherd University and runs at the Parkersburg Art Center, Tamarack, Bluefield and Concord
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Universities, the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in Lewisburg, and West Virginia University. Broadcast and print media coverage has been overwhelming positive, as has the feedback contributed by exhibit visitors. Exhibit attendees have described it as “excellent,” “interesting,” and a “great overview of his life [and] career.”
The Byrd Center also gained special permission to display the exhibit in the Richard B. Russell Rotunda at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. for a week this past September. In conjunction with this extraordinary opportunity, we hosted a special evening reception in the Russell Building’s famed Kennedy Caucus Room for many of Senator Byrd’s friends, colleagues, and former staffers. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin addressed attendees and shared the story of his first encounter with Senator Byrd as young boy while U.S. Senate Historians Emeritus Dick Baker and Don Ritchie each spoke about his special place within American history.
Support for the exhibit has been provided by a major grant award from the West Virginia Humanities Council as well as contributions from FirstEnergy Corporation, Comcast, Piper Jaffrey, and the United States Capitol Historical Society.
Above: The exhibit on display in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.
Below: Senator Joe Manchin III delivers remarks during the exhibit reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room.
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First National Bank
March 6-April 9
Pierpont Comm. & Tech. College
January 23-February 17
United Hospital Center
April 11 - May 15
Wheeling Jesuit University
January 24-February 16
Randolph County Arts Center
February 17 - March 17
Traveling Exhibit Venues
Winter and Spring 2017
April 10-May 15
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13th View Trailer
Wednesday, February 8 - 6:30 pm
The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.
Dr. Strangelove View Trailer
Wednesday, March 1 - 6:30 pm
Ranking as one of the American Film Institute’s greatest movies, Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 film was the first commercially successful political satire about nuclear war and Cold War politics. Dr. Strangelove touched on rising popular fears about technology and nuclear war in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis and as the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union continued. As our national conversations about politics, technology, and nuclear power continue, the film’s biting commentary remains as relevant and thought provoking as ever.
Four films to be screened with public discussions at the Byrd Center
Now entering its third year, the Byrd Center's Film Series, presented in partnership with Shepherd University's Lifelong Learning Program, will offer four film screenings and discussions this spring. All are welcomed to join us at the Byrd Center. Admission is free to everyone! All you need to do is reserve your seat(s) in advance by contacting our office at (304) 876-5648 or email@example.com.
Spring Film Series Begins in February
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Ken Hechler: In Pursuit of Justice
Wednesday, April 6 - 6:30 pm
As a U.S. Congressman, West Virginia Secretary of State, university professor, author, and environmental activist, Ken Hechler changed the face of West Virginia politics. This West Virginia Public Broadcasting documentary traces the evolution of Congressman Hechler’s political philosophy to the progressive movement of the early twentieth century and documents his commitment to public service and political office. With added insight from U.S. Senators Tom Harkin, George McGovern, and Robert Dole, as well as Congressmen John Brademas and James Symington, the film highlights Hechler’s lifelong devotion to helping the citizens of the West Virginia and nation. The documentary's producers, Chip Hitchcock and Russ Barbour will be on-hand for the post-film discussion.
Command and Control View Trailer
Wednesday May 17 - 6:30 pm
From the director of the groundbreaking film Food, Inc., and the executive producer of the Oscar-nominated film Last Days in Vietnam, comes Command and Control, the long-hidden story of a deadly accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas in 1980. Based on the critically-acclaimed book by Eric Schlosser, the chilling new documentary exposes the terrifying truth about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal and shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us. Woven through the Damascus story is a riveting history of America’s nuclear weapons program, from World War II through the Cold War, much of it based on recently declassified documents. A cautionary tale of freak accidents, near misses, human fallibility and extraordinary heroism, Command and Control forces viewers to confront the great dilemma that the U.S. has faced since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?
Each event will be held from 6:30 – 8:30 pm in the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education auditorium. Doors open at 6:00 pm
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By Jody Brumage
New Collection Opens for Research
Congressman Harley O. Staggers, Jr. (right) speaks with the dean of the West Virginia Delegation, Senator Jennings Randolph in front of the capitol early in his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers Collection
The Byrd Center is excited to announce that we are opening for research the papers of Congressman Harley O. Staggers, Jr. This collection chronicles Congressman Staggers, Jr.’s one term in the West Virginia Senate (1980-1982) and his five terms in the United States House of Representatives (1983-1993). Two years ago, the Byrd Center formally opened the papers of his father, Congressman Harley O. Staggers, Sr., who served sixteen terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1949-1981). Both of these collections were acquired together by the Byrd Center.
Harley Orrin Staggers, Jr. was born in Washington D.C. on February 22, 1951 to Congressman Staggers, Sr. and Mary Casey Staggers. He grew up in his family’s home town, Keyser and graduated from Keyser High School before attending Harvard University where he received his B.A. in 1974. He attended West Virginia University School of Law, graduating in 1977 and being admitted to the West Virginia Bar. After working in the State Attorney General’s office in Charleston, he joined his brother, Daniel to form the law firm of Staggers and Staggers.
Staggers, Jr. won election to the West Virginia Senate, serving one term from 1980 until 1982. At the conclusion of the term, he was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, taking the seat occupied by his father for thirty-two years representing West Virginia’s second congressional district.
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Prior to redistricting in the aftermath of the 1990 census, the second congressional district covered the eastern half of the state, reaching from Monongalia and Preston Counties in the north to Monroe and Summers Counties in the south, extending to the boarder of the state’s capitol in Charleston and encompassing the entire eastern panhandle. The district was home to a diverse economy, with industrial activity in the north and the coal fields in the south. The district also contained much of West Virginia’s agricultural areas, presenting unique challenges for the district’s representative in Washington D.C.
While most members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation devoted significant focus on coal, Staggers, Jr. was appointed to the House Committee on Agriculture, focusing on federal assistance programs which benefited his constituents in the eastern panhandle and Potomac Highlands. He was also appointed to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and devoted much of his attention to supporting the VA infrastructure in his district and the nation (one of three VA medical centers in the state, Martinsburg, was located in the second district). However, Congressman Staggers, Jr. cited constituent service as his most important duty, a principle which he attributed to his father.
Congressman Staggers, Jr. (left) with his father, Harley O. Staggers, Sr.
Congressman Staggers, Jr. during a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
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49 linear feet of shelf space
96 document boxes
Ranging in date from 1976 - 1993
Containing materials from Congressman Staggers, Jr.'s terms in the West Virginia State Senate and the United States House of Representatives
The Collection at a Glance
Following the 1990 census, West Virginia’s population was reported to have declined by 8%, triggering a redistricting process which ultimately redrew the state’s four districts into three. The new second congressional district stretched across the center of the state, still encompassing the eastern panhandle but now including the state capitol at Charleston and reaching all the way to the Ohio River. As a result of the redistricting, Congressman Staggers, Jr.’s hometown of Keyser, represented by a member of the Stagger’s Family for over forty years, was now in the first congressional district, represented by another long-time West Virginia political family, the Mollohans. Congressman Staggers, Jr. decided to challenge Congressman Alan Mollohan in the first district, but lost the primary race to his opponent. After leaving Congress, Staggers, Jr. returned to his law practice, focusing on civil and employment law.
The Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers Collection offers rich research opportunities. The collection contains a large amount of constituent casework which focuses on agriculture and veterans’ affairs. With its extensive press clippings collection (totaling over 30% of the total collection), the Staggers, Jr. Papers also offer a case study in the effects of congressional redistricting. Over 425 photographs in the collection have been digitized and are individually described in the finding aid. Researchers can also read an oral history given by Congressman Staggers, Jr. for the Byrd Center in 2012 in which he recalls his career, working with Senator Byrd, and his father's long service in the Congress.
Click here to begin exploring this collection
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The Byrd Center advances representative democracy by promoting a better understanding of the United States Congress and the Constitution through programs and research that engage citizens.
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