- Associated Press - Thursday, October 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - Longtime Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran is back at work in Washington after a health setback and facing questions about whether he’s up for the rigors of his job.

Entering the Capitol on Thursday for a vote, Cochran was asked about his fitness to continue serving. Frail and speaking softly, he told reporters that “it’s up for the people to decide” as aides ushered him into a Senate elevator.

Cochran, who turns 80 in December, returned on Tuesday after weeks away from Washington and his powerful chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. The panel’s work has been delayed in Cochran’s absence.

He has spent the last month in Mississippi recuperating from a urinary tract infection.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said he had great respect for Cochran, praising his return.

Cochran is a leadership loyalist and returned to Washington to help pass a GOP budget plan that’s crucial for the party’s hopes on cutting taxes.

“I have such respect for him because he is not feeling great. I can tell you that,” Trump told reporters. “And he got on a plane in order to vote for the budget and I have great respect for that man.”

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote Wednesday of “buzz” in Mississippi that Cochran would step down. Cochran was also the subject of a blunt depiction in a Politico article on Wednesday that described him as appearing “at times disoriented during a brief hallway interview.”

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