MONTPELIER (AP) -- Former Vermont U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, who in 2001 tipped control of the Senate when he quit the Republican Party to become an independent, died Monday at the age of 80. Some reaction to his death:

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"While we are saddened by our father’s passing, we take comfort in the knowledge that he lived a full life, from the hills of Vermont to the halls of Congress. We will miss his kindness, his good humor and his generosity of spirit."

-- Jeffords’ children, Laura Jeffords and Leonard Jeffords.

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"During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud."

-- President Barack Obama.

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"Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about -- and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue."

-- Vice President Joe Biden and his wife.


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"Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort."

-- Former President Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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"He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate’s history."

-- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

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"While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he led the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition."

-- U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.

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"Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country."

-- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

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"Jim Jeffords made history in the spring of 2001 with his bold move out of the Republication Party. He will be remembered for sending a message to the rest of the country that he was not going to put partisan politics before his work in Washington, D.C."

-- Rhode Island Gov. and former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

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"We didn’t always philosophically agree, but we managed on many occasions to get things done, and that’s what’s wrong now."

-- Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

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"Jim Jeffords’ independent voice has been stilled, but his independent spirit lives on in those who were privileged to work with him. He knew that avoiding partisan rhetoric was essential to successful political dialogue."

-- U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

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Jim was a model of a great legislator who avoided partisan politics and fought for what was best for the people of Vermont. In 2001 he changed the makeup of the Senate by switching from a Republican to an Independent and caucusing with the Democrats. History will remember Senator Jeffords as a courageous man who listened to his conscience, and I will always respect him for doing so."

-- U.S. Sen Harry Reid, D-Nev.

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"He was a very fine, decent man. We’re grateful for his service."

-- U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.