Senator Thad Cochran to Leave the Senate April First- Leaving Southern Void on Senate Ag CommitteeTue, 06 Mar 2018 14:48:23 CST
Seven-term Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a leading proponent of Southern crops in the Agriculture Committee, announced he will resign, effective April 1, due to poor health. His departure will punctuate efforts to draft the 2018 farm bill in the coming weeks and could diminish the South’s influence over the legislation.
The National Cotton Council said Cochran, 80, was instrumental in passage last month of legislation that rewrote the cotton program and assured larger subsidies to growers. The insurance-like STAX support created by the 2014 farm law was a flop, according to the industry.
Cochran chaired the Agriculture Committee in 2003-04 and is the second-ranking member of the panel behind chairman Pat Roberts. Service on the Appropriations and Agriculture committees gave Cochran an unusually large influence on farm and food policy since he had a hand in government funding. Beside his support of cotton, rice and peanuts, Cochran is a backer of food stamps and other federal public nutrition programs.
At a minimum, his resignation will force a turn-over in Republican membership of the Agriculture Committee and temporarily reduce the South to holding three of its 21 seats: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Boozman of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. McConnell generally takes a back seat in the committee’s activities. Committee chairman Roberts aims for a farm bill that will have wide bipartisan support.
“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Cochran said in announcing his decision. He said he intended to oversee the final spending bill for fiscal 2018 before leaving Washington.
Gov. Phil Bryant was expected to appoint an interim senator and schedule a vote on a permanent successor as part of the Nov. 6 general elections. Missisppi politcal observers say among the potential appointees as interim senator were Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, state agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and Delbert Hosemann, the Mississippi secretary of state. It has also been reported that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Governor Bryant to reconsider appointing himself. The appointment will a short term one- as the remainder of Cochran's term will be up for grabs in this coming November's general election- meaning both of that state's Senate seats will be contested this year.
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