Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is being sworn in today as president pro-tempore of the Senate, following the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.
As Senate president pro-tem, Inouye is now third in line to become president should something happen to President Obama. Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are ahead of him.
The job also includes a security detail 24-hours a day.
"It’s a new life for me," Inouye, 85, said. "I have people who are watching me and looking around all the time, whether I like it or not."
Inouye said he will be briefed by the White House tomorrow on the communications and security that comes along with his new position.
Inouye succeeded Byrd as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and is now the most senior member of the U.S. Senate. Inouye, elected in 1962, is the longest-serving current senator.
"My heart is heavy with sadness following the passing of a dear friend," said Inouye in a written statement.
"We have been friends for nearly 50 years and I am overcome with memories. Nearly 48 years ago Senator Byrd was one of the first to greet me in the chamber of the United States Senate.
"Since that first moment of friendship we have worked together on many projects. And since those early days, I have called him, ‘my leader.’
"He was my mentor. Over the years he provided me countless opportunities and tasked me with positions of critical national oversight while guiding my actions with the temperance he learned as the longest serving Senator in history."
Inouye, 85 and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in World II, added: "He was a Senator’s Senator. His many accomplishments were historic and he fought tirelessly to improve the lives of working families in West Virginia. We shared the belief that we must provide for the people who trust us to represent their communities in Washington.
I owe much to my leader, Senator Byrd. He will forever have my gratitude and respect and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with the Byrd family during this difficult time."
As president pro tem, Inouye will preside over the Senate in the absence of the vice president.
Inouye became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when Byrd stepped down because of deteriorating health in 2008.