The Hill braces for yet another November shake-up as Mississippi’s Republican senior Senator Thad Cochran announced yesterday afternoon that he plans to resign from the upper chamber on April 1.
While this move seems like a long time coming, given Cochran’s deteriorating health and mental state, it carries some big consequences for both the current Senate makeup and the campaign trail.
- Cochran is right behind the Senate president pro tempore, Orrin Hatch, in seniority – and both are resigning. The next Republican on that list is Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, which matters a lot, given that the position usually goes to the most senior member of the majority party. This would mean that the office – which is right behind the speaker of the House in the line of presidential succession – would skip Cochran and go straight to Grassley.
- Cochran is also chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that his departure will add yet another name to the already long list of retiring GOP committee chairmen, including Hatch, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and others. Basically, the GOP leadership structure was already in for a massive rearrangement after this election cycle, and this resignation adds just one more variable.
- The move may also alter the GOP primary calculus in Mississippi. Cochran’s 2014 primary opponent, Chris McDaniel, recently announced a challenge to Mississippi’s junior Senator Roger Wicker, whom Trump has endorsed. Now McDaniel could run for Cochran’s seat again without facing the uphill battle of going against POTUS’ pick. However, McDaniel’s campaign says he’s staying put for now and focusing on his challenge to Wicker.
“While it is certain that [Mississippi] will have two US Senate races this year, I am currently focused on my campaign against Roger Wicker,” a statement reads. However, he also added that “all options remain on the table” as his team figures out the best way to get conservatives to fill the now two open slots.