Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving Senator in history, stepped down as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee Friday after weeks of speculation that his party's leadership had planned to nudge the 90-year-old Democrat from his post.
The West Virginia icon will be replaced by Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, 84, who's served in the Senate for almost 46 years.
Mr. Byrd said it was time for new leadership in the Senate's largest committee, which has control over federal agencies budgets.
"A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee," he said in a statement.
He will remain as chairman of the subcommittee that writes the budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Byrd said the decision to walk away from his chairmanship was his alone.
"I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul-searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate," he said.
But rumors had persisted for weeks on Capitol Hill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, would ask Mr. Byrd to step aside after Tuesday's national elections.
Mr. Byrd also serves as president pro tempore of the Senate, a position that puts him third in line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He was elected to the Senate in 1958 and formerly served as the chamber's majority leader.