Departing Sen. Cochran 'optimistic about the future' of the country

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi on Thursday gave a farewell speech in the U.S. Senate, where he's the longest-serving current member of Congress.

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 8:14 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi on Thursday gave a farewell speech in the U.S. Senate, where he's the longest-serving current member of Congress.

"I'm optimistic about the future of our great nation," said Cochran, 80, who is retiring April 1 because of poor health.

Cochran served six years in the House before joining the Senate in 1978. He is the 10th longest-serving member of the Senate in history and is serving for the second time as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. His departure comes as Congress is voting on a product of the committee's work — a $1.3 trillion spending bill that puts more money into the military and many domestic programs.

Senate colleagues paid tribute to Cochran, with Democrats and Republicans praising him repeatedly as a "gentle persuader" who is civil while working across party lines.

"He wrote the book on composure under pressure," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said during the session shown on CSPAN2.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Cochran sought and received his support for Gulf Coast projects after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Years later, Cochran helped the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy.

"He had a long memory and knew how to work the legislative process," Schumer said.

Democrats and Republicans talked about Cochran's love of music and literature and the genuine interest he showed in meeting people when he traveled to other states and countries.

"He was nice to everyone, from the elevator operators to the highest officials around the world," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said.

Nearly three years remain in Cochran's term, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday appointed Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to temporarily succeed the senator. A nonpartisan special election will take place in November and the winner will complete Cochran's term, which ends in January 2021.

Hyde-Smith, who pledged Tuesday to support President Donald Trump, will face at least two other candidates — Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. House member who served as President Bill Clinton's first agriculture secretary, and tea party-backed Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly unseated Cochran in a bitter 2014 Republican primary.

Hyde-Smith will be the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress. She served 12 years in the Mississippi Senate as a Democrat before becoming Republican in late 2010 and winning the statewide race for agriculture commissioner in 2011. McDaniel sent a fundraising email Wednesday criticizing Hyde-Smith: "Apparently, McConnell and his cronies would rather have another liberal Democrat in Washington than a principled conservative Republican."

Republicans are trying to maintain their thin Senate majority. Although Mississippi is conservative, GOP leaders are wary about splitting the party and losing a seat to a Democrat after something similar happened last year in Alabama.

Andy Taggart, an attorney who was chief of staff for Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice in the 1990s, said Wednesday that he might run in the special election to try to prevent either McDaniel or a Democrat from winning. Taggart said McDaniel showed a "lack of respect" for Cochran in the 2014 race.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 65436

Reported Deaths: 1848
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5544117
DeSoto357430
Harrison240635
Madison239664
Rankin225132
Jackson222542
Jones185058
Forrest175855
Washington160640
Lauderdale139790
Lee138333
Neshoba128492
Lamar119214
Oktibbeha109638
Bolivar109333
Lowndes105837
Warren103332
Panola102612
Scott99520
Sunflower99224
Lafayette95615
Copiah94528
Leflore90762
Pike89635
Holmes87348
Grenada83821
Yazoo81512
Pontotoc8098
Lincoln79641
Leake78625
Simpson78630
Monroe76952
Wayne75321
Coahoma71511
Tate70527
Marshall6749
Marion64320
Winston61116
Adams61025
Covington61013
Union60116
George5494
Newton53711
Pearl River52937
Tallahatchie52210
Attala51525
Walthall49119
Chickasaw45019
Noxubee44811
Calhoun4079
Prentiss40310
Claiborne39813
Alcorn3975
Smith39713
Clay39214
Jasper3819
Hancock37314
Tishomingo3635
Itawamba34810
Tippah34213
Clarke32525
Tunica3226
Montgomery3153
Lawrence3127
Yalobusha31210
Humphreys28311
Carroll26011
Quitman2521
Greene23611
Jefferson Davis2286
Kemper22714
Amite2256
Webster22512
Perry2237
Wilkinson20113
Jefferson1946
Sharkey1944
Stone1864
Benton1420
Choctaw1314
Franklin1192
Issaquena251
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12743242
Mobile9565206
Montgomery6521148
Madison525030
Tuscaloosa410371
Unassigned347461
Baldwin344323
Shelby320133
Marshall309034
Lee262844
Morgan233017
Etowah207530
DeKalb177113
Calhoun170413
Elmore169438
Walker150264
Houston136412
Russell13422
Dallas131123
St. Clair131016
Limestone128413
Franklin125820
Cullman120112
Colbert115613
Lauderdale113917
Autauga106521
Escambia105416
Talladega98613
Jackson9454
Tallapoosa84979
Chambers83538
Dale82323
Blount7743
Chilton7676
Butler75935
Coffee7475
Covington72620
Pike6907
Barbour5695
Lowndes56724
Marion56724
Marengo54614
Clarke4969
Hale46726
Bullock45411
Winston44411
Perry4364
Wilcox41810
Bibb4164
Monroe4154
Randolph39410
Pickens3849
Conecuh38210
Sumter36218
Lawrence3441
Macon33213
Washington32712
Crenshaw3133
Choctaw27912
Cherokee2637
Geneva2550
Henry2523
Greene25011
Clay2495
Lamar2172
Fayette1985
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
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