(AP Photo /Charles Dharapak, File)
(AP Photo /Charles Dharapak, File)

Former U.S. Senator James Jeffords, who made headlines when he quit the Republican party, has died.

FOX News Radio's Rachel Sutherland reports from Washington.

The former Vermont lawmaker tipped the balance of power in the U.S. Senate in May of 2001, when he said:

(Jeffords) "I will leave the Republican party and become an Independent."

Fed up with President George W. Bush's opposition to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Jeffords caucused with the Democrats until he retired in 2007.

Jeffords had been in declining health, and an aide says he passed away this morning in Washington. Jeffords was 80 years old.

In Washington, Rachel Sutherland, FOX News Radio.