James Merrill Jeffords was an American politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Vermont. Sworn into the Senate in 1989, he served as a Republican until 2001, when he left the party to become an independent and began caucusing with the Democrats. Jeffords retired from the Senate in 2007. Prior to serving in the Senate, he served as the U.S. Representative for Vermont's at-large congressional district from 1975 to 1989.