Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) “looked frail, pale, moved slowly and was soft spoken” in an off-camera interview at the Capitol on Thursday, CNN reported.
The 79-year-old senator returned to Washington on Tuesday after missing several weeks of votes on the Senate floor due to health issues, for which he received treatment in Mississippi.
Cochran appeared frail and at times disoriented during a brief hallway interview on Wednesday. He was unable to answer whether he would remain chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and at one point, needed a staffer to remind him where the Senate chamber is located.
CNN’s report on Thursday documented Cochran’s continued decline:
Asked directly if he is fit enough — physically and mentally — to remain in the Senate and as chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, a demanding job overseeing and approving all federal spending, Cochran said he thinks he is.
“It’s up for the people to decide,” he responded. “I think I am.”
As Cochran walked into the Capitol, he stepped through a metal detector — something he is not required to do and hasn’t been in his nearly 40 years in Congress. He was then guided by several staffers to a “senators only” elevator to go up to the floor.
Cochran insisted that he has no intention of resigning and said that he intends to run for re-election in 2020.
“I think so. I’m a candidate for re-election,” Cochran told CNN when asked “if he thinks he can handle the job as head of the committee.”
CNN also noted that reporters have noticed Cochran’s deteriorating condition:
Reporters’ conversations with Cochran have become less and less productive in recent years, as detailed conversations with him about the complicated issues before his committee seemed to have waned. On some occasions, he answers questions directly but often his answers are generic and so general as to be basically off-point. A story in Politico earlier this week described Cochran as “frail and at times disoriented” and described an incident where Cochran voted “yes” on an amendment for which he was supposed to vote “no.”
In fact, Cochran has asked reporters for directions to rooms in the Capitol that he’s been to many times.
Despite Cochran’s claims that he has no intention of resigning, it will be increasingly difficult for him to remain in the United States Senate when it is so painfully obvious to everyone who interacts with him at the Capitol that he simply no longer has the physical or mental ability to do the job.
The question is not whether Cochran will resign, but when he will resign, and who Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant will appoint to replace him.