Sen. Thad Cochran, who is recovering from a procedure to remove a skin lesion from his nose, is available to vote today on any big bills that might come up, his staff said Thursday.

The 80-year-old senator’s health has been a concern of many Washington politicos this year as Republicans have needed yea votes on key legislation.

Cochran had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose on Monday afternoon, said Brad White, Cochran’s chief of staff. The outpatient procedure was more extensive than doctors believed, and Cochran’s face became bruised and swollen beginning Monday night.

Deciding it was best to rest and recover this week, White said, Cochran missed six votes this week on federal judicial nominations. White then said Cochran would be ready to vote on the Senate tax bill, which is expected to be taken up early next week.

“Sen. Cochran would be immediately available to vote if anything were to come up,” White said. “We just thought it was better for him to rest up and recover this week while some nominations that would’ve passed anyways were considered.”

Sen. Cochran ‘has never mentioned retirement,’ chief of staff says

Republican leaders are banking on Cochran’s yea vote on the tax bill, which moved out of conference committee earlier this week.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said on Thursday he would vote against the bill. If two other Republicans vote against the bill or abstain, as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee did when the bill first moved through the Senate, the measure would die, spoiling President Donald Trump’s goal of passing tax reform by Christmas.

Cochran’s absence would likely be a deciding factor in whether the bill passes or dies.

Cochran, who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee, returned to Washington following the fall recess later than expected after spending several weeks at his Oxford home recovering from two urinary tract infections.

His scheduled return to Washington was delayed one day, spurring speculation on Capitol Hill and in Jackson about the senator’s future.

Cochran participates in Senate floor session on Wednesday

Reports from the Capitol the week he returned insisted that the senator was not back to full speed. A Politico piece published at the time chronicled Cochran seemingly being disoriented and unresponsive to basic questions.

That same week, a Bloomberg reporter said Cochran mistakenly voted yes on an amendment that would cut $43 billion from the appropriations budget, but changed his vote after an aide spoke in his ear.

Officials on Cochran’s staff have called those reports unfair.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.