Editorial, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1998

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1998

U.S. Sen Thad Cochran met Tuesday over lunch with the editorial board of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

The senior Mississippi member of the world’s most powerful deliberative body spoke with the confidence, authoritative knowledge and thoughtful deliberation fully reflective of nearly 20 years in the Senate. Cochran has, altogether, almost 25 years in Congress; the first six were in the U.S. House.

Cochran is second-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and he is widely regarded as the heir apparent for the chairmanship when it opens and if, as seems likely, he remains for several more years in the Senate. He holds other positions, too, including the chairmanship of a subcommittee that deals extensively and internationally with weapons proliferation and compliance with non-proliferation agreements.

Cochran opposes any kind of term limits for members of Congress other than those imposed when voters turn members of Congress out of office. His experience, demeanor and undimmed enthusiasm for public service after 26 years on Capitol Hill make a definitive statement against the term limits movement at the federal and state levels. Cochran said, in fact, that tenure in the Mississippi Legislature is “true public service” because it has none of the allure and perks that come with service in Congress.

The senator, speaking as only one with seniority and power can, offered encouraging news for Mississippians, especially about highways and federal funding. He and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott enthusiastically support legislation that would give Mississippi a greater (and fairer) share of federal highway construction funds. The increased funding, expected to be passed this year, could speed work on highways like U.S. 45, 72 and perhaps Mississippi Highway 6/Appalachian Corridor V between Pontotoc and Tupelo. Cochran is a key member of the most powerful purse-strings committee, and influence, combined with that of Lott, is without parallel for one state in the Senate.

The Pontotoc County native also offered words of caution about rushing toward either a flat tax or a national sales tax to replace the current income tax system. First, he said, new proposals must show themselves superior to the existing system, which relies mostly on voluntary compliance by individual citizens. Second, he said, a new system must not become so costly with enforcement and collection requirements that savings and efficiencies are lost in the reforms. The bottom line, he said, is that any new system must be fair to all taxpayers, a point some reformers have lost in their zeal for change at almost any cost.

Cochran characteristically waited until all the questions had been asked to make a presentation to the editorial board about weapons proliferation. It is, as he explained clearly and with depth of detail, the great new international challenge in American foreign policy. The lone superpower has no single arch enemy, but we face a dangerous and growing group of smaller, rogue nations whose regard for peace and weapons control is minimal. His subcommittee on proliferation will present a detailed report Monday morning in the Capitol. It is certain to be read carefully because non-proliferation also is one of the primary goals of the Clinton administration’s foreign policy.

Few other senators command the respect from colleagues given to Cochran by members of both parties. His sense of collegiality makes him doubly effective. He is a serious, scholarly legislator whose enthusiasm for work in government is rare.

He loves politics, but his love of public service clearly occupies first loyalty in his distinguished career.