Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) told reporters in October that he had no plans to quit, despite evident signs of deteriorating health, but now "the 80-year-old's feeble performance has fueled expectations — among senators and aides who've witnessed his physical and mental decline firsthand — that Cochran will step down from the Appropriations chairmanship early next year, or resign from the Senate altogether," Politico reports. Republicans don't want Cochran to go before the new year because that would trigger a special election within 100 days; if he resigns after Jan. 1, Mississippi would vote for his replacement in November, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who is up for re-election.
Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said the long-serving senator "has not made any statements regarding leaving office. He continues to do his work for Mississippi and the nation." But an unidentified Republican senator on the Appropriations Committee, which Cochran chairs, told Politico, "The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. 1. ... That's what most of us believe will happen." Cochran hasn't presided over a hearing since early September or given a floor speech in all of 2017, and he's reportedly stopped meeting with senators and House members about substantive business. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the No. 2 Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has be running the committee, numerous aides and senators tell Politico, and he's expected to become chairman if Cochran steps down. You can read more at Politico.