WASHINGTON (HawaiiNewsNow) - Senator Daniel Inouye is now the highest ranking member of the Senate, following the passing of his colleague, Senator Robert Byrd. The 92-year-old Byrd had served 51 years in Congress, the longest of any senator. 85-year-old Inouye was elected to the Senate in 1962 and now is the longest-serving living senator.
It's mostly a ceremonial position, but it comes with a stark reality. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Inouye is now the third in line if something happens to the President. As Inouye raised his hand and uttered the words to take the oath of office, he did so with a heavy heart.
"I was thinking to myself, this is not the way to say goodbye to a friend."
Senator Byrd was actually more than a friend to Senator Inouye, he was a mentor.
"He's been good to me. For example, he was the one who first put in my name to be Senator of the Conference, which is the number three leader in the Senate."
As president pro tempore, Senator Inouye is now third in line should anything happen to the president. The only two in front of him are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. By tradition, the post is given to the most senior member of the majority party. Senator Inouye's life changed almost instantly.
"Since 2:00 this afternoon, I have two security guards sitting out in front outside my door. And they'll have security with me for 24 hours which is not fun, you know. I'll have security when I go to Zippy's to eat" said Inouye.
Then there are big events like the state of the union address. President Obama addresses the nation with Biden and Pelosi standing right behind him. Senator Inouye cringes at the thought of any kind of terror attack.
"The president pro tempore will never see a State of the Union Address because they hide them in some cave. That's how life has changed.
He also knows there are questions about his own mortality. The senator is now 86 and he says he feels rejuvenated and more vibrant than ever.
"I always feel upbeat. Once you start feeling otherwise, you might as well start measuring the coffin."
Senator Inouye says he accepts his new position with "gratitude and a whole lot of humility."