Thad Cochran’s Future in Senate Remains in Limbo

Senator Thad Cochran
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) future in the Senate remains in limbo as his health continues to decline; many speculate that he will retire early next year.

One Republican senator, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, told Politico, “The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. That’s what most of us believe will happen.”

Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for the Mississippi senator said Sen. Cochran has told colleagues what his future entails.
“Sen. Cochran has not made any statements regarding leaving office. He continues to do his work for Mississippi and the nation,” Cochran’s spokesman said.

Cochran’s illness arises for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) majority in the Senate. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continued to recover from treatment from brain cancer and returned to Arizona to spend the rest the Christmas holidays with his family. Democrat Doug Jones beat Alabama Judge Roy Moore in the Alabama special election this month, which will draw the Republican majority in the upper chamber to 51-49.

Gallegos also suggested that there remains no new information over whether Cochran will continue to serve as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“He has not made any statements about relinquishing his chairmanship,” Gallegos said.

Cochran was absent for several weeks in September and October due to a urinary tract infection. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) was effectively serving as the acting chairman in Cochran’s absence; many expect Shelby to take over as Appropriations Committee Chairman should Cochran step aside.

If Cochran resigns in 2018, Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) will appoint a replacement for him to take over before the Mississippi holds a special election to choose Cochran’s permanent replacement in the Senate.

Chris McDaniel, a state senator who lost to Cochran in a bitterly contested 2014 primary, is considered the leading Republican candidate to replace Cochran. McDaniel has yet to say whether he will run to replace Cochran in a special election or whether he might run against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) for Mississippi seat in the U.S. Senate.

“My hope is that he’s healthy and happy, I just want to see him back to his normal self,” McDaniel explained. “There’s just no way to know for sure what will happen.”

“Whatever he does, I still have to prepare for a race. If I run against Wicker, the race is in June. If there is an open seat, the race is in November. If I run for lieutenant governor, that race is in 2019,” McDaniel added.


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