Cochran doesn’t expect Dole to give up leadership post
By Marty Russell
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said Thursday he does not expect a special election in the Senate to fill Majority Leader Bob Dole’s post because he doesn’t expect Dole to step down while running for president.
“He told me the other day he would resign as majority leader on his way to his inauguration,” Cochran said of Dole, who is the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. “He also said he would resign when Bill Clinton did.”
Should Dole decide to step down from the No. 1 spot in the Senate leadership, it would likely pit Cochran and Mississippi’s other senator, Trent Lott, against each other in a race to ascend to the post. Lott, as majority whip, holds the No. 2 spot in the Senate GOP leadership while Cochran, as chairman of the Republican Conference in the Senate, holds the No. 3 spot.
“(Dole) said he didn’t see any need to (resign) and I agree. And that’s good for us,” Cochran said of himself and Lott.
Cochran serves as a co-chairman in Dole’s presidential campaign.
The senator’s comments came after a speech to members of the Amory Rotary Club Thursday where he discussed the pending Farm Bill and giving the president line-item veto power. He also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement and General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, both of which he supports.
Cochran, who serves on the Agriculture Committee and is chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee, said Mississippi farmers would benefit from the Farm Bill passed by the Senate and now awaiting House action.
“They will get stability and flexibility,” he said of the state’s farmers.
The seven-year plan would scrap traditional subsidies to farmers while guaranteeing payments to those meeting conservation requirements. Cochran said that would give farmers a better idea of how much to expect from the federal government when planning their planting each year.
The plan would also remove restrictions on what farmers could plant.
“They would be able to have more flexibility without losing income,” Cochran said. “They would still get the payment they’re going to get, but they could plant another crop. They would have the flexibility to plant what they want to plant and what the market encourages them to plant.”
After a member of the Rotary Club complained that the area was losing all of its garment industry to Latin American and Caribbean countries because of NAFTA and GATT, Cochran said, “If it were before the Senate today I would vote the same way.
“It is working,” he said of NAFTA, while acknowledging that not all industries had benefited. “There would have been plenty of jobs lost before NAFTA was even written.”
He said the nation had seen a net gain of 50,000 jobs as a direct result of NAFTA after taking into account the jobs that were lost because of it.
When asked about the status of a bill that would give the president line-item veto power, Cochran admitted that, after years of Republican efforts to get such a bill passed, the GOP was now wary of giving that power to the Clinton administration.
“It would make (the presidency) an awfully powerful office and I worry about that,” he said. “We’re trying to be a little more cautious about how it works and that’s the cause for the slowdown” in bringing the bill to a vote.