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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: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
Neshoba101673
Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
Forrest92743
Scott78515
Jackson70417
Copiah62715
Washington62610
Leake59820
Lee57521
Holmes57041
Oktibbeha55728
Wayne55116
Warren54020
Yazoo5336
Grenada5227
Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
Lamar5007
Lincoln49234
Pike46617
Sunflower4368
Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
Bolivar37018
Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
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