Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

James Jeffords, Vermont Republican who became independent, dies at 80

WASHINGTON — James Jeffords, the maverick Vermont politician who in 2001 gave Democrats a short-lived majority in the U.S. Senate when he left the Republican Party and declared himself an independent, died of complications of pneumonia Monday at a retirement residence in Washington. He was 80.

Sen. Jeffords declined to seek re-election to the Senate in 2006, citing his wife's and his own declining health, and was succeeded by Bernie Sanders, his state's longtime U.S. representative, who also is an independent.

A former Vermont state senator and attorney general, Sen. Jeffords served seven terms in the U.S. House before winning election to the Senate in 1988. He established himself as a moderate-to-liberal Republican, a reflection of his state's political tendencies, and frequently voted with Democrats on matters such as health care, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control and the environment.

He had long considered a party change, he said, without making the move. But his alienation worsened in the later years of his career — a shift attributed, depending on the source, to factors such as genuine philosophical disagreements or a desire for greater influence on behalf of his state.

On May 24, 2001, Sen. Jeffords announced that he would become an independent and caucus with Democrats. Before his move, the Senate had been split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Dick Cheney, the Republican vice president, casting the deciding vote. Suddenly, Democrats had a one-seat advantage.

"Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party," Sen. Jeffords said at the time. "I understand that many people are more conservative than I am, and they form the Republican Party. Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them."

Critics cast him as a turncoat and a traitor to voters who had sent him to the Senate as a Republican three times. His decision snatched committee chairmanships from Republican colleagues and booted Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican, as majority leader. Thomas Daschle, the Democrat of South Dakota, took his place.

But in the November 2002 elections, Republicans regained control of the Senate.

Former U.S. Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont left the GOP and declared himself an independent. 

Former U.S. Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont left the GOP and declared himself an independent. 

James Jeffords, Vermont Republican who became independent, dies at 80 08/18/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2014 11:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum

    Hurricanes

    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  3. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar

    Blogs

    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.
  4. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  5. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.