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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.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
Lafayette520598
Lamar505865
Washington4933125
Bolivar4126109
Oktibbeha408382
Panola386981
Pontotoc377460
Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
Leflore3118109
Lincoln306788
Hancock294262
Sunflower291975
Tate280662
Alcorn273154
Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
Yazoo256756
Prentiss253754
Coahoma249755
Copiah249749
Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
Grenada223972
Covington221073
Adams215171
Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
Newton199946
Attala197064
Tishomingo194961
Chickasaw189344
Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
Conecuh97922
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
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