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Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi dies at 81

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Thad Cochran takes part in a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, the courtly Mississippi Republican who held leadership positions over some four decades in the Senate, died on Thursday at the age of 81, his successor, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, said in a statement.

Cochran had served as chairman of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls billions of dollars in discretionary spending, and before that during the George W. Bush administration, when he oversaw funding for the Iraq War and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast.

He resigned from the Senate last year due to health concerns. Hyde-Smith was first appointed to take his seat, and won a special election last November to serve the remainder of his term.

Cochran started out as a Democrat back when the U.S. South was a stronghold for the party, and voted for Lyndon Johnson for president in 1964. But with the region shifting toward the Republican Party, four years later he worked for Richard Nixon’s successful presidential campaign.

Cochran first went to Washington to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973. When he was elected to the Senate in 1978, he became the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi since Reconstruction following the Civil War.


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