Category Archives: Rep. Jim Cooper

Dear NJ & NY: I’m Sorry

Every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted for the $50.5 billion Superstorm Sandy disaster relief package except my Congress Critter, Rep. Jim Cooper.

Every Democrat.

Sigh.

It’s 7 a.m. here, so obviously I haven’t had a chance to call his office yet and find out why he voted against Hurricane relief, especially after two years ago his own district got flooded and received federal aid. I’m going to guess we’ll hear the usual concerns about pork and debt and spending cuts and blah blah. Perhaps he’s still butthurt over the massive failure of Bowles-Simpson, which he brought to the floor last year with Rep. Steve LaTourette. That plan went down in flames, big-time.

But seriously, spare me the phony concerns about “pork.” It’s hard to take that seriously when I remember Cooper found federal money to build a parking garage for the private, Church Of Christ-affiliated David Lipscomb University a few years ago. Yes, the project included a bus shelter. But please. Lipscomb has got so much money they’re buying up houses in my neighborhood, tearing them down, and putting ginormous new buildings in their place — a nursing school, an engineering school, a pharmacy school. Let them build their own damn parking garage.

Sigh.

Anyway, someone on Twitter last night observed that anyone thinking Cooper can’t be primaried might want to consider all of the pissed off Democrats in New York and New Jersey right now who might be eager to donate to a rival’s campaign. That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day: this is the internet age, and the concept of Congressional districts has changed. We may physically live in one Congressional district, but more and more of us belong to ideological districts. Virtual districts, if you will. How many of us donated to the campaigns of candidates in other states? I know I have, lots.

People pissed off at a Democrat voting against disaster aid or the fiscal cliff deal might join forces with people in the district who have been itching for a more progressive representative for years. Blue Dogs are an endangered species in Congress. Cooper might have some explaining to do.

[UPDATE]:

Just to clarify, I’m not saying I support the idea of primarying Jim Cooper. Any scenario of that type would of course depend on who any potential candidate would be. But Cooper is only making himself more vulnerable. His district got more blue after redistricting, and if history is any judge, his Republican rival will be another Tea Party wackjob, just like the last ones have been. Those people won’t fly in the Fighting Fifth.

[UPDATE] 2:

Cooper’s office says he voted no because “it wasn’t paid for and will add $50 billion to deficit.”

So, kinda what I said: debt and spending and blah blah. Same old.

[UPDATE] 3:

WTF?

Pith: Why did you vote against the bill?

Cooper: The bill wasn’t paid for. In fact, it wasn’t even partially paid for. Congress really made no effort to pay for even a fracture of it, so it added $50 billion to the deficit. I did support last week $9 billion, free and clear, I did support in this legislation $20-plus billion free and clear, but the extra $30 billion really should have been at least partly paid for.

Talk about moving goalposts. First he complains that the bill “wasn’t even partially paid for,” then says nearly half of it was paid for, then complains that the full package wasn’t “even partially offset.”

Please, next time you want to screw my friends in the Northeast, try making some damn sense.

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Filed under Congress, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee

Desperate For Attention

You guys, you are totally not paying enough attention to Brad Staats, the latest Teanut to challenge Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper for the 5th Congressional District’s House seat. So Staats has decided to post a picture of a gun on his Facebook page with the ominous words…

“Apparently Tennesseans are part of that crazy crowd that Obama says ‘cling to (their) religion and guns.’ Well, then I must be part of that crazy crowd. Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama.”

Crazy? You said it, I didn’t. So yes, this ought to create some attention for Mr. Staats, maybe even a good mocking over at Colbert Nation. That might even be good for some donations from the knuckle-dragging NRA Neanderthals and UN conspiracy nuts he routinely strokes over at Facebook. I mean hey, crazy worked for Basil Marceaux, right?

And hey, that’s fine with me. Jim Cooper has a 99.999% chance of winning. The chances that the Fightin’ Fifth will send a Republican to represent them in Congress for the first time sine 1874 is nil.

I just don’t understand why Republicans think crazy is the way to go.

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Filed under 2012 presidential election, gun control, Rep. Jim Cooper

Memory Hole: Rep. Jim Cooper On SCOTUS

While we’re all waiting for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, I remembered Rep. Jim Cooper touched on this at our blogger meet-up back in January. I revisited the recording which Sean Braisted posted and threw up a quickie transcript, because I thought you guys would be interested. Cooper of course is a Democrat and he voted for the ACA, and he also teaches a course in healthcare policy at Vanderbilt University.

Here were his thoughts on SCOTUS and the healthcare bill (and if you listen to it at Braisted’s place it starts around the 14 minute mark, I think…):

This is an amazingly important moment in America and hopefully it won’t be a Bush v Gore case where they make a totally political … the court needs the credibility when they’re deciding things according to the law. If they were to overturn the individual mandate that would be getting rid of eight years of Commerce Clause precedent. Now it is true before the New Deal that they had a much narrower view of government. But ever since the New Deal it’s been settled, Republican judge, Democratic judge, Commerce Clause is broad. If they were to suddenly narrow that, they’d be taking America to the 1920s.

And then for them to roll back Medicaid coercion? That would be astonishing. We would lose highway programs, we would lose tons of stuff. So what I have trouble helping people understand is, they think John Roberts, he’s conservative, Alito, he’s conservative, Scalia we know he’s conservative, and Thomas … what they don’t understand how they’re radical conservatives. Like, this idea that corporations are people? That is crazy. That is absolutely, flat-out crazy.

Some interesting headlines have hit the papers lately on the “what ifs” of the pending SCOTUS decision. (The funniest so far, hands-down, has to be Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who accidentally posted all of his possible responses on YouTube before his team had a collective woopsies.)

Constitutional scholars seem to be of a like mind with Rep. Cooper, noting the court will lose all credibility if it overturns the individual mandate because it will so obviously be a political not legal decision.

Via Ezra Klein we have Yale constitutional law scholar Akhil Reid Amar noting:

“I’ve only mispredicted one big Supreme Court case in the last 20 years,” he told me. “That was Bush v. Gore. And I was able to internalize that by saying they only had a few minutes to think about it and they leapt to the wrong conclusion. If they decide this by 5-4, then yes, it’s disheartening to me, because my life was a fraud. Here I was, in my silly little office, thinking law mattered, and it really didn’t. What mattered was politics, money, party, and party loyalty.

Well, um, duh. Welcome to the world. Seems to me we’ve been headed down that pathway since the mid-90s. Where’ve you been, buddy?

Also from the Ezra link, here’s Kevin Drum (not a constitutional scholar, but whatever):

Overturning ACA would be a whole different kind of game changer. It would mean that the Supreme Court had officially entered an era where they were frankly willing to overturn liberal legislation just because they don’t like it. Pile that on top of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United and you have a Supreme Court that’s pretty explicitly chosen up sides in American electoral politics. This would be, in no uncertain terms, no longer business as usual.

Again, what rock have you guys been living under? If even my Blue Dog congressman sees the radicals on the bench for what they are, what the heck is wrong with you pundits and scholars?

Ezra says SCOTUS has always been political and I’m not sure that’s the case, certainly not the level we see today. But as I noted back in March it does have a long history of making really crappy decisions like, for instance, Buck v Bell.

(h/t Kay at Balloon Juice)

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Filed under healthcare, Rep. Jim Cooper, Supreme Court

Coffee Klatch With The Congressman

On Saturday Nashville’s Congress Critter Rep. Jim Cooper, an unabashed Blue Dog Democrat, met with a small group of local bloggers at a coffee house near me. It was just a chance to chat and answer any questions we might have (I understand he held a similar get-together with the traditional media last week). Sean Braisted has the audio of the event here.

I don’t go to too many blogger events and when I do I try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. But we all had an informative conversation and my fellow bloggers are a knowledgeable bunch who asked some good questions. I was especially intrigued to learn that Rep. Cooper is thinking about buying a Nissan Leaf. Knowing that Mayor Karl Dean, Sen. Lamar Alexander, ex-Senator Bill Frist and practically the entire Frist family are all Leaf drivers, I think we can now call the Leaf the status symbol of Tennessee politicians.

One of the things we discussed was Washington’s dysfunction. Cooper expressed the view that we have the worst of both worlds, because Congress is functioning as a parliamentary system, without the benefits of such a system, which he said is a huge problem for getting anything done. Precisely, what he said was:

We’ve lost our Congress. We’ve gradually lost it over time. It’s now a parliament. Used to be Congressmen would vote their party 70-80% of the time, now it’s 95% plus, otherwise you’re an outcast, pariah.

We’ve also lost majority rule in Congress because — the filibuster it’s obvious, the power of the minority — but starting with Speaker Hastert in the House, they say it openly: we only listen to a majority of the majority. And that basically means with Republicans holding 240 seats, you basically have 120 Republican votes, and the rest of Congress be damned. So both the House and the Senate now have a filibuster-type problem but it’s only acknowledged in the Senate.

Far be it from me to contradict someone who actually works in the House of Representatives, but from the perspective of an observer, that’s just not how it looks. I’m not sure how you can decry partisanship and in the next breath complain about a loss of majority rule, either. But as someone who has been observing our broken system for the past decade or so, I just don’t see this as the reason Congress can’t get anything done.

Maybe I’m saying this because I’m a progressive sporting permanent tire tracks from constantly getting thrown under the bus, but we can all remember some time when Democrats were in the majority and a Democratic-caucusing politician like Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman or Bart Stupak hijacked a piece of legislation to make sure their pet issue was addressed or some special interest was appeased. And that will exist regardless of any Senate or House supermajority rules (actual or implicit), because there will always be what Digby long ago referred to as “the pampered little prince or princess who thinks he or she should be running everything and they will hold up the process regardless.” She wrote then:

In the days when legislation was cobbled together on a bipartisan basis, you didn’t want too much discipline or you couldn’t get the other side to cross lines when you needed them. But the realignment has solidified the partisan divide on the basis of ideology, philosophy and region. The Republicans have adapted already and understand that their job is to obstruct when in the minority and steam roll when in the majority. The Democrats are still living in the past.

Such words are anathema to folks like Jim Cooper, I’m sure. And I can understand why. But from my observer’s chair, it seems like too much has changed in the world for anyone to think we can go back to the time when politicians operated away from the glare of the masses and there weren’t two dozen lobbyists per congressman, and the special interest groups didn’t suck all the air out of the national dialogue, and money wasn’t equated with speech. Back then, Americans got their information from a few trusted sources who could reliably be counted on to at least not spread crazy shit like healthcare reform requires patients be implanted with microchips. Those must have been the good ol’ days, but they are gone for good.

Yes, Americans are more engaged in their governance than ever before. But I feel like we have less power than ever before. We’re more splintered. The gatekeepers are gone from every entrance, thanks to the internet and new media, and people are self-segregating into virtual communities based on rigid ideology and issue-based interests. With modern American life fractured, of course our government reflects that. There are very few issues that unite us all, enabling us to speak with a loud enough voice to get anyone’s attention anymore. That opens the door for those players who will always get Washington’s attention: the people with the money. That’s what talks, and that’s why certain people can always get their way. It’s why John Boehner is powerless against the Tea Party, not because this fringe group of crackpots is so powerful, but because of the corporate money behind them.

That’s how it looks to me. As an observer. I could be wrong.

I really don’t have any answers here. I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. I’m not advocating Republican-style obstruction, I’m just trying to counter the view that all we need are more bipartisan hugs and everything will be awesome again. Democrats are really great at crossing the aisle; they do it all the damn time. News flash: we’re not getting awesomer.

I’m thinking Washington will have to get irrelevant before it can get relevant again. I’m thinking we’ll need to look elsewhere for our answers — people power, maybe use social media to try to unite some of these self-selected virtual communities. We definitely need to operate on the cultural level, not the political one.

Congress can operate with an all-time low approval rating of 13% because the people don’t matter; maybe what the people need to do is make Congress not matter. Not to be all Oprah-sounding here, but we’re going to have to take our power back and just get done what it is we want to get done. We’re certainly not going to see things change by hoping Congress will do its job.

That’s how it looks to me. As an observer.

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Filed under Congress, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee politics

>Rep. Jim Cooper On How To Fix Congress

>Coop, my Congresscritter, recently gave a speech at Harvard on this topic. He pulled few punches in his lecture, to the point where during the post-speech Q&A he said he hoped his appearance “would not be a career limiting move” (and for those wanting parity, a Republican lecture on the same topic is coming in March). I found his speech enormously interesting and urge everyone give it a listen/watch.

Before you let the lecture’s apparent length deter you, Cooper’s talk is only about 30 minutes long (the rest is Q&A) and actually doesn’t begin until 4 minutes in. (Also, you can download it as a podcast and listen to it while walking the dog, should you be so inclined.)

Here’s the video:

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/271530229

What’s interesting to me is his contention that Congress has basically become a parliamentary system; for those of us who have decried our current partisan state and wondered what living under a real parliamentary system might be like, it’s a douse of cold water. And in fairness to Coop, he says we have the worst of both worlds: the parliamentary aspects without the accountability a party-nominated prime minister provides.

Cooper calls the state of our modern Congress “grim,” labels the institution “willfully blind to most of the nation’s problems.” I daresay you’d be hard pressed to find disagreement on that point, regardless of your political affiliation. His focus on the negative outcome of the Citizens United decision struck me as especially interesting, since he’s a Blue Dog and I thought being against Citizens United was unique to us DFH’s.

Cooper had some intriguing ideas on how Congress can be reformed, including these two “quick thought experiments”:

1- What if Congress were paid on commission to cut spending or repeal obsolete laws?

2- What if Congressmen could only raise money from real people who lived inside their district, not outside interests?

What, indeed? A lot of Cooper’s talk casts the blame for our current overly partisan woes on the shoulders of Newt Gingrich, who politicized longstanding Congressional practices back in the ‘90s — and the Democrats who failed to go back to Tip O’Neill-style rules and practices when they came into power in 2007. That lends a bit of an “offa my lawn” quality to Cooper’s talk but the information is still useful. For instance, how many people know that the political parties now require members of Congress to pay exorbitant dues — or, as Cooper infers, that plum committee assignments are related to one’s timely payment of said dues?

Cooper’s talk has received little attention but I think it’s something every political observer should watch.

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Filed under Congress, Rep. Jim Cooper

>My Jim Cooper Story

>My Democratic Congress Critter Jim Cooper has been running some positive ads to keep his name out there, and I think this is the best one:

It basically talks about how Cooper helped his constituents after the Nashville floods, and delivers a nice “Cooper Cares” message. Now, this is standard-issue political messaging, what one would expect from a sitting Congressman running for re-election. But I just had to share my own “Cooper Cares” story, because I actually think it’s pretty funny.

I’ve met Cooper once, at a bloggers’ coffee a year or two ago. I was with a group of people, and I introduced myself under my nom de blog. Now it’s true I call and write all of my Congress Critters pretty regularly about issues before the House and Senate, but when I do so I use my Citizens’ name, not my blog name, and most of the time I talk to whichever poor Beleaguered Intern has been tasked with answering the phone that day. So I’m pretty confident that Rep. Cooper doesn’t know me from Adam; I could be wrong but if anything his office knows me as the nutcake who calls all the time to ask when the hell we’re bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and why haven’t we closed SOA/WHINSEC?

So, last year — I think it was when he was promoting his own healthcare reform plan — I called his office to voice my concerns about healthcare reform. I left my name and number with the Beleaguered Intern and expected that to be that and went about my day.

Now, let me interject here and say: I am not a telephone person. I despise the telephone. I have a cell phone, which I rarely use; if I remember to have my cell phone with me, half the time it’s not even turned on. Which is fine because if it is turned on, I can never hear it ring. I also perpetually forget to check messages on the landline. Anyone who wants to reach me knows not to call me. Send me an e-mail. That’s just how I roll; I’m a writer not a talker.

Okay, so here I’m doing my civic duty calling my Congress Critter about healthcare reform and then I leave the house for errands or whatever. And it must have been eight hours or so later — heck, it might have been the next day — that I realized my house phone line was messed up. So I turn on my cell phone to call BellSouth and that’s when I discovered Jim Cooper had left me a message! Now, how he got my cell phone number I have no idea, and frankly I was pretty astonished he had called because, again, he doesn’t know me from Adam, I’ve never given his campaign any money, and I was really just accustomed to leaving my little citizens’ message of concern with the Beleaguered Intern and being done with it.

So I called Cooper back on the number he had left. He said he’d tried to return my call several times, and became concerned when my phone appeared to be disconnected. So somehow he was able to get my cell phone number — I don’t really want to know how, but let me guess it’s through perfectly normal Tennessee Democratic Party channels and not something requiring security clearance — and tried to reach me that way. He said it more than once: “I was concerned when I couldn’t reach you.” I mean, dang. My own family doesn’t get concerned when they can’t reach me: half the time I think they call when they know I’m not at home.

Anyway, this story actually warmed my heart. I thought, if anything happens to Mr. Beale and I’m all alone and something awful happens — God forbid — I won’t have to worry that my body will go undiscovered until the smell alerts the neighbors. As long as I keep calling Coop’s office, I’ll know he’s concerned about me, too. I know this sounds corny, but I’m not sure there are too many members of Congress out there so fired up to talk to a constituent who doesn’t give them tons of money but just wants to nag about peace, healthcare and solar panels.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Jim Cooper Edition

[UPDATE]:

As of 7/7/10 all campaign signage has been removed.

———————————————

Well here’s a nice little “screw you” to Rep. Jim Cooper, courtesy of Nashville’s David Lipscomb University:

Jeff Hartline, of course, is a Republican wackadoo “Constitutional Conservative” hoping to get the Republican nomination for Jim Cooper’s seat. Judging by the large number of yard signs in the district, I’d say he’s a shoe-in for the GOP nomination, though his hopes to win the general look iffy on account of him being, well, crazy.

But so what, a humongous yard sign for Jim Cooper’s opponent, what’s the big deal, you say? Well, for one thing, it’s on property owned by the private, Church of Christ-affiliated David Lipscomb University. Yes that’s right, Parkwood Terrace Apartments is owned by DLU, according to Metro property records. There is a permanent “no vacancy” sign out front; I guess they use it for student housing.

So, you say? Well, back in 2005 Rep. Cooper secured a $3.17 million earmark in a highway funding bill for Lipscomb’s new parking garage. He took heat from conservatives like Bob Krumm, who decried the move as “pork” and from liberals like, well, me for using taxpayer money to support a construction project at a private, church-affiliated college.

Even worse, the sign is on Belmont Boulevard, right across the street from the Lipscomb campus, and pretty much directly across the street as the crow flies from said parking garage. Ouch.

So now it appears that five years later David Lipscomb University is endorsing Cooper’s “Constitutional Conservative” opponent. Who is running on a platform of Tentherism and killing Medicare and Medicaid, eliminating the Dept. of Education and other fringe ideas. One can only imagine what he thinks of the highway transportation bill that allowed David Lipscomb University to build its parking garage with taxpayer money.

Looks like Coop can’t win for losing.

Regardless of Cooper’s past assistance to the university, I think it’s extremely inappropriate for a university to endorse candidates of any type (and that goes for the smaller Bill Haslam sign you see pictured as well). You just can’t assume all of your students, faculty, staff and alumni–or tenants–are going to share your political views. Not very smart, Lipscomb.

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Filed under David Lipscomb University, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee politics