Byrd returns to Senate for defense vote

Like the swallows to Capistrano, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) returned to the Senate on Tuesday to cast a vote on the defense authorization bill making its way through floor debate.

And, with similar reliability, Byrd voted to continue spending on the F-22 fighter plane that some Democrats and Republicans say is not needed. Still, a statement from Byrd's office insisted the program would create jobs in West Virginia.

President Obama opposed the continuation of the F-22 project. The Senate voted to strike the F-22 funds, 58-40.

Looking frail, Byrd was wheeled into the chamber for the vote and wheeled out shortly afterward.

Byrd, 91, had been hospitalized with an infection for the better part of two months. An initial infection had worsened while Byrd was in the hospital. He was finally released June 30, but only returned to the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate president pro tem, technically third in line for the presidency, said it is "wonderful to be back in the august body where I have served for more than 50 years, and to see all my colleagues who have been so supportive of me during my recent hospitalization," according to a statement from his office.

Byrd's office said he would ease back into his Senate duties.

J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this report.