Mr. Cochran, 79 years old, had been expected to return to Capitol Hill this week after recovering in Mississippi from prostate surgery and ensuing complications. But he extended his leave Monday for an indefinite period.
His absence briefly threw into doubt whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would have enough votes to forge ahead with a vote expected later this week on the budget needed to advance a tax overhaul. By midday Monday, Senate GOP aides said they expected the budget vote would continue as planned, indicating the leadership believed for now that at least 50 votes were secure.
With the GOP holding a slim 52-48 majority, older GOP senators’ health-related absences already have forced votes to be postponed or held open.
In July, Mr. McConnell delayed a vote on the health-care bill while Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) recovered from an unexpected eye surgery, and then disclosed that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Mr. McCain, now 81, returned later that month to cast one of the votes that sank the GOP effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act.
And in March, GOP leaders kept a vote open while Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who was recovering from back surgery, was summoned to Washington. After flying back from Georgia, Mr. Isakson, 72, returned to the Capitol in a wheelchair with Vice President Mike Pence. Both votes were needed to overturn an Obama-era regulation that would prevent states from blocking funding to health-care providers that perform abortions. Two centrist Republicans were voting no.
Wall Street Journal