Jeffords' jump causes political waves in Mississippi
POWER PLAY n Senate Republicans prepare to meet with reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday after the Senate approved the tax cut bill 62-38. Left to right are Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Rich Santorum, R-Pa. AP photo
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
May 24, 2001
Vermont Sen. James Jeffords may not only hold the future of the U.S. Senate in his hands today, but he could also deal a devastating blow to Mississippi, according to Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring.
Jeffords' jump to become an Independent will shift the balance of power in the Senate from the Republicans to the Democratic party and Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott will lose his coveted majority leader status.
The majority party in the Senate currently appoints chairmen to all Senate committees. Herring said the impact of Lott's diminished role is exacerbated by the fact that Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran would have likely become chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
The news comes only months after Mississippi suffered another setback on the national front learning the state would lose one of its five congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many political pundits had found solace in the fact the state would have Lott in the majority leader's position and a veteran statesman like Cochran also in Washington.
Herring said while the news certainly did not have good timing, Lott and Cochran both would still wield a lot of authority in the nation's capital.
Despite most national media outlets reporting that Jeffords would announce his switch today, Lott and his staff were trying to remain as upbeat and optimistic as possible about the outcome.
Jeffords had originally scheduled to make his announcement on Wednesday, but postponed his announcement until today after meeting with President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Lee Youngblood, a Lott spokesman, was hopeful the change in plans might also have led to a change of heart.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at email@example.com.