‘He’s a model for what the Senate should be’: U.S. senators eulogize Thad Cochran and the political style he left behind


Desmond Boylan, APU.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., gives a press conference alongside Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, on Feb. 22, 2017.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy stood behind Sen. Thad Cochran’s casket and held back tears as he eulogized his old friend and a bygone era of civility across party lines in American politics.
“I can’t help but feel the Senate is more empty without him, because he was a man of his word. I wish there were more like him,” Leahy said. “His legacy will live long in programs that got strong support from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate… He’s a model for what the Senate should be, and he proved it can be.”
It’s unlikely, in today’s hyper-partisan Congress, that a liberal Democrat from Vermont and a conservative Republican from Mississippi could be close friends. But longtime Sens. Leahy and Cochran, who passed away on Thursday morning at age 81, defied those standards. Their friendship dates back to 1978, the year Cochran was elected to the Senate after serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“He’s the best friend I have in the Senate,” Leahy told Mississippi Today in 2017. “He always keeps his word. I know he’ll keep his word to me, he knows I’ll keep my word to him. Unfortunately, some in both parties are forgetting that.”
Their friendship was built on shared interests, particularly regarding their states’ rural, agrarian geography and reliance on federal funding. At one time or another, both served as chair of the Agriculture Committee, and both have served as top leaders of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
The two traveled the world together and became familiar with each other’s homes. Cochran once traveled to Montpelier with Leahy when the temperature hit 20 below zero, and Leahy traveled to the catfish