According to a Politico, report, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) may resign from his post as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee — and perhaps from the Senate altogether — as early as Jan. 1.
The 80-year-old Cochran has faced questions about his health and vigor since before his surprisingly close primary victory over tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in 2014. But those questions have intensified in recent months, as Cochran has missed significant chunks of time from the Senate due to health issues.
Cochran missed several weeks in September and October due to what his office described as a urinary tract infection. He has not chaired an Appropriations Committee hearing since before that absence, and has not given a single speech on the floor of the Senate all year, according to Politico.
“The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. 1,” said a Republican senator who serves on the Appropriations Committee, Politico reported. “That’s what most of us believe will happen.”
When reached for comment, a spokesman for Cochran issued a carefully-worded statement that did not deny the rumors that Cochran was planning to retire: “Sen. Cochran has not made any statements regarding leaving office. He continues to do his work for Mississippi and the nation.”
Politico quoted sources who claimed that Cochran’s resignation — at the very least as chairman of the Appropriations Committee — is widely expected as soon as Congress passes a long-term bill to fund the government.
If Cochran does step down in 2018, a temporary replacement would be appointed by Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The remainder of Cochran’s term, which runs through 2020, would be permanently filled in a special election in November.
Republicans would be heavily favored to retain the seat in that special election, so a Cochran resignation would unlikely affect the balance of power in the Senate.