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WASHINGTON — Top Republicans coping with a razor-thin majority as they try pushing a partisan agenda through the Senate are running smack into another complication — the sheer age and health issues of some senators.

When the office of the ailing Sen. Thad Cochran announced Monday that it was the Mississippi Republican’s “intention to return to the Senate when his health permits,” it underscored the challenges of navigating a chamber that’s the second oldest ever. Cochran’s absence narrows the GOP’s margin for error on a pivotal budget vote this week, and the Appropriations Committee that he chairs hasn’t churned out any spending bills for next year since he was last in Washington in mid-September.

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