Former Vt. Independent Sen. James Jeffords Dies

Famous for leaving the Republican Party under Dubya, giving Dems control over the Senate.


James Jeffords, a soft-spoken Vermonter whose defection from the Republican Party in 2001 created an unprecedented power shift in the U.S. Senate and gave Democrats control of the chamber for 18 months, died on Monday at age 80, his former aide said.

Jeffords had been in declining health and died at a military retirement home in Washington, the aide, Diane Derby, said. A funeral is being planned in his hometown of Rutland, Vermont, she added.

Jeffords was a New England moderate who found himself out of step with his increasingly conservative colleagues when he rocked American politics on May 24, 2001, by announcing he was leaving President George W. Bush's Republican Party, tipping the divided Senate.