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Jim Cooper: Uncovered

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TN-05 Blog Roundup

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 01/05/2010 – 10:10

As 2010 begins, the buzz continues in the local and national blogosphere about the race in Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District:

  • Joe at Tennessee Ticket looks ahead to the likely major 2010 stories in Tennessee politics:
  • A few of our federal races will get all kinds of attention as well. There are three open seats now, instead of just the one. The two currently held by Democrats are being aggressively sought by the national GOP, as it looks to swing the pendulum its way after the last two elections and obviously at there cheapest prices

    Besides those, Far East Tennessee could see a rematch from two years ago; it’s still possible that U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper could draw opponents from both sides; and out in Memphis, everyone is waiting to see whether former mayor Willie Herenton will bring any serious opposition to Congressman Cohen, or whether a federal indictment will be a disabling distraction.

Yobachi at BlackPerspective.net blogs about a Washington Post interview with Rep. Cooper conducted shortly after his vote for the House health care reform bill.
TN-05 voter TennesseeCatfish at Buzzflash comments on ideological diversity in the Democratic party and how the fifth district differs from others in Tennessee represented by Blue Dogs:

The Democrats are, have been and will continue to be a highly diverse group with a lot of competing political interests and priorities. This diversity is at once something I love about the party and a continual source of aggravation.Can be more expensive to begin with but cheaper in the long run

The one aspect of this that I do not accept and urge us to punish is the faux blue dog, such as my congressman, Jim Cooper. Jimbo represents one of the bluest districts in the country, yet he is a blue dog. he hides behind the facade of this being a necessity because he lives in the South. It is a lie. Most of the other Democrat congressmen in Tennessee are compelled to be conservative Democrats in order to hold their office, and I accept that…

Commenter Mandarama at Balloon Juice on the effectiveness of writing letters to Congress:

You can add me to the list of Congress-botherers. Even though it does not one whit of good, I call up Lamar! and Bob Corker and Marsha Blackburn every few weeks just to annoy their staff. Lamar’s office doesn’t answer the phone reliably, btw. Marsha’s receptionist hates me. I always give my opinion on the topic du jour, then say, “I just want to remind that he/she has a more diverse constituency than he/she believes, and not everyone in TN is interested in religious rhetoric and obstructed government.” Doesn’t do any good, but I try.

On health care, I took to writing / calling Jim Cooper, too. I live right outside his district, but I used my sister’s address. He wrote back twice, and at least once it was clear I’d nettled him with the Blue Dog accusation. Heh.

NRCC Robocalls TN-05

Submitted by Charles on Mon, 01/04/2010 – 10:39

The National Republican Congressional Committeereportedly did some robocalls targeting Jim Cooper in TN-05 over the holiday week, although it’s worth ask if their aim was actually to damage his re-election prospects — or to help them: If Jim had bought there would be hell on

“Jim Cooper has been in Congress for over seven years, and has lost touch with what Tennessee workers are going through,” a woman says in the robocall, provided to us by a reader. “Unemployment in Tennessee is 10.3%, but Jim Cooper spent 2009 helping liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi pass a massive government takeover of health care that will increase costs and could lower choices.”

Tennessee a red state that offers the GOP some solid pick-up opportunities in 2010, such as the retirements of Democratic Reps. John Tanner and Bart Gordon, in districts that were carried by John McCain. However, Cooper’s district is one of two solidly Democratic districts in the state. It voted for Barack Obama by 56%-43%, and for John Kerry by 52%-47% before that.

In an August 2009 poll, 61% of TN-05 voters, including 64% of Independents responded that they were in favor of a public health insurance option, representing strong support across party lines for real reform. The NRCC has either badly miscalculated how their generic anti-health care reform message will be received in TN-05, or else they are targeting the district in an attempt to show themselves expanding their 2010 playing field (an effort which will be impossible in any swing district, much less the solidly blue TN-05, at their current fundraising pace). Or, there’s third option which does not exclude the second — that national Republicans are fully aware of the makeup of the district and how such calls would be received, and that they don’t really mind having Jim Cooper around.

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Alabama Blue Dog Congressman Officially Becomes Republican

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 12/22/2009 – 13:03

Blue Dog Congressman Parker Griffth from Alabama makes it official, announces he will become a Republican:

Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Alabama, will announce today that he’s switching parties to become a Republican.

What did the DCCC and Jim Cooper’s Blue Dog Coalition get in return for their support in the eleven months Parker Griffith served with a nominal D after his name? Media Matters has the final score: votes against the stimulus, against equal pay for women, against the budget, against real health care reform, against green jobs and against financial regulation, as well as a promise back in August to vote for the Republican leader for Speaker of the House next time around:

“I would not vote for her. Someone that divisive and that polarizing cannot bring us together,” he said, according to the Huntsville (Ala.) Times.

“If she doesn’t like it, I’ve got a gift certificate to the mental health center,” he added.

In June, Griffith joined with fellow Blue Dog Jim Cooper to call for Democrats to give intransigent House Republicans more say in the legislative process, in an attempt to reprise the same delay tactics he used to block health care reform in 1994.

The Blue Dogs sure know how to pick ‘em:

Centrist Blue Dog Coalition Endorses Parker Griffith
June 10, 2008

Retired physician and small business owner will bring common sense and fiscal discipline to government

Huntsville, Ala. – Today Dr. Parker Griffith, Democratic candidate for Congress in Alabama ‘s 5th congressional district, announced that he has received the endorsement of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives who advocate responsible fiscal policies and commonsense government.

A retired physician, Griffith has lived and worked in Huntsville, Alabama for over 30 years. Like many Blue Dogs, he has also developed several local small businesses and understands the needs of small businesses owners.

“I am Honored to be endorsed by the Blue Dogs,” Griffith said. “I support their philosophy of working across the aisle to find real solutions to the tough problems facing this country. I look forward to working with them to find ways to cut the deficit, reduce the high cost of health care, and restore fiscal discipline in Congress.”

“As a small business owner, Parker Griffith understands the importance of restoring fiscal responsibility to the federal government, and in order to do that we must make the difficult decisions necessary to balance the budget,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications. “We are proud to offer Dr. Griffith our endorsement today and look forward to working together to end the partisan bickering in Washington and advance commonsense fiscal policies.”

The fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995 with the goal of representing the center of the House of Representatives and appealing to the mainstream values of the American public. The Blue Dogs are dedicated to a core set of beliefs that transcend partisan politics, including a deep commitment to the financial stability and national security of the United States.

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Retiring and Primary-Threatened Blue Dogs Vote For Jobs Bill

Submitted by Charles on Thu, 12/17/2009 – 13:06

By a 217 to 212 final tally which included 38 Democratic no votes, the House of Representatives last night approved the $154B “Jobs for Main Street Act” that would redirect unused and repaid TARP bailout funds towards job creation.

As Politico notes, there were some surprising Blue Dog votes in favor of the bill, including the retiring Bart Gordon and John Tanner from Tennessee:

But the three Blue Dogs who announced their retirement plans over the last month – Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) – all voted to support the increased federal spending, a bit out of character given their political profiles. Their votes gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the margin necessary to pass the bill.

Tanner, in particular, is an unlikely supporter of the bill: He’s a co-founder of the Blue Dogs who has railed against excessive federal spending throughout his career in Congress.

In addition to those who are calling it quits in 2010, two Blue Dogs who have recently faced pressure from progressives also voted for the bill: Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, who voted for the bill despite recently railing against government spending, and Jim Cooper, who voted for the bill after some earlier wavering.

Whether its the freedom from corporate campaign funders that comes with retirement or the pressure that comes from knowing they can’t take their base for granted, there appears to be at least a couple of ways for constituents to win the votes of their Blue Dog congressman on legislation that actually promises to help Main Street.

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Reaction To Blue Dog Rep. Gordon’s Retirement

Submitted by Charles on Mon, 12/14/2009 – 13:07

Jackson Baker at the Memphis Flyer:

What it comes down to, stripped of all euphemisms and rationalization, is that Tennessee’s Democrats, one year after taking a licking in legislative races and becoming the minority party in both houses of the General Assembly, are abandoning ship at the congressional level, too — not even waiting for the 2010 census, after which the state GOP will have a free hand in redistricting….

The 5th District, encompassing Nashville, is held by Jim Cooper, a Democrat who faces constant criticism from the Democratic left (as did Tanner) for being too conservative in his voting. He may end up facing both a primary and a general-election challenge in 2010.

David Dayden at FDL:

With each retirement we are seeing a weakening of the Blue Dog Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Jim Cooper’s statement is here.

Christian Grantham at Nashville is Talking also has a great more extensive round-up of TN blogosphere reaction from both sides of the aisle.

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TN Blue Dogs Running For The Exits?

Submitted by Charles on Mon, 12/14/2009 – 10:43

Reports are coming in this morning that Blue Dog Rep. Bart Gordon (TN-06) will not run for re-election in 2010, following up on Blue Dog Rep. John Tanner’s (TN-08) retirement announcement last week.

That makes two open seats in Tennessee that might be a better fit for Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper — who has already represented TN-04, the only other Blue Dog seat in TN — than his current district is.

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Cooper Skeptical Of Medicare Buy-In

Submitted by Charles on Fri, 12/11/2009 – 10:56

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Jim Cooper is skeptical of the Medicare “buy-in” that may end up in the Senate health care bill — but doesn’t indicate what the sticking point might be:

Ms. Pelosi (D., Calif.) stopped short of endorsing the full Senate compromise, saying she needed to see “something in writing.” But she said “there is certainly a great deal of appeal” in expanding Medicare.

Other House Democrats were more cautious. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition, said he was “watchful and hopeful” about the idea, but couldn’t commit to supporting it.

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Cooper: Wall Street Bailout Was “Not Big Enough,” But Main Street Jobs Bill Must Be “Modest”

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 12/09/2009 – 09:40

In a DC paper today, Jim Cooper offers some extremely qualified and tepid potential support for President Obama’s jobs bill that would be funded by unused and repaid TARP funds:

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), an influential voice among the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said a “modest” investment in infrastructure along the lines of the $75 billion would be entirely appropriate, especially if it’s paid for with unused funds originally earmarked for the nation’s banks.

Asked if that meant support for the jobs bill, Cooper said: “Well, we’ll have to see what gets tacked onto it.”

The $75 billion in infrastructure is roughly equivalent to what both President Obama and the leadership in the House has been discussing. It seems likely that Jim Cooper’s support for the bill may come down to whether the additional proposed and badly needed funding in the bill — energy (weatherization or “cash for caulkers”), the social safety net, etc. — is miniscule enough to have no effect whatsoever on economic growth for unemployed Nashville workers and struggling small businesses.

But last year, when he supported the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street — the TARP, whose repaid and unused funds will now largely fund this jobs effort for Main Street — he was not insisting that it be “modest” or indicating qualified support based on how carefully the funds were directed. He was saying $700 Billion wasn’t enough for Wall St. Bankers:

“Is the bail-out big enough? No, this is not a joke. The Administration has consistently underestimated the problem; only three days ago they thought 500 billion was enough. The fire extinguisher must be able to handle the fire. You don’t want to do this twice. How convenient for President Bush if, four months from now, President Obama has to ask for the bail-out authority that Bush should be asking for today.”

Last fall Jim Cooper said the “fire extinguisher must be able to handle the fire” on Wall Street. Now President Obama wants to use that same extinguisher — which Cooper argued wasn’t big enough — to help put out the unemployment fire on Main Street in his own district. Funny how whenever legislation comes up that might help his constituents who need it most, and not the health insurance industry or Wall Street investment bankers, Jim Cooper suddenly transforms into “Mr. Fiscal Conservative” again.

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Senate May Tell House “Take It Or Leave It” On Health Care

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 12/08/2009 – 13:32

Last month, Jim Cooper told The Tennessean editorial board that he thought health care reform was still on “life support,” and then layed out a potential scenario that would further strengthen the hand of his fellow Conservadems in the Senate who want to kill the public option. The scenario he drew up (likely in the hopes it would become reality) was that there would be no conference committee, and that the Senate would simply tell the House to swallow whatever horrible language they came up with:

Can you sort of walk us through your sense of where things now are headed. What the Senate will do and what will come back to the House?

“The simple view is the Senate will act and it will send that bill to conference. … They will work out the differences between the House and the Senate, then we will vote on the same bill and see if that passes and go to the president. As you peel back the layers, you discover that there are a number of senators, like those who are upset about the debt ceiling increase, who say they are not going to send it to conference. They’re going to say to the House “take it or leave it,” because they know how difficult it is to get 60 votes over there and they don’t want the bill to vary at all from what they know can pass with 60 votes. They are right to say they have very little leeway. If you peel back the layers further you realize that it may be more difficult than people realize for the Senate to vote on anything. …”

And today, according to a report by Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post, it seems that Cooper’s desired endgame may in fact be coming to pass:

The health care reform bill that passes the Senate might be the one that ends up on President Obama’s desk, bypassing the usual House-Senate conference committee and avoiding another 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster.

There is increased chatter on Capitol Hill about a possible “ping-ponging” of the Senate health care bill: that chamber would pass its health care bill, send it to the House and the House would be asked to pass it with no changes and send it directly to the president.

With no conference committee, there is no way to fix any of the damage that the handful of Conservative senators ostensibly on the “Democratic” side of the aisle — Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman — will be able to inflict on the bill in the coming days, which may very well include killing the public option.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, a leader of the House Progressive Caucus, responded:

“The whole point is we tolerated negotiated rates and tolerated having to watch the Senate work its machinations, with the whole hope that in conference the House will go in strong,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “For a lot of progressives that have relied on conference as the vehicle to save the public option, it becomes a very, very difficult vote.”

Grijalva told HuffPost that the strategy would require progressives to back down so that the president could get a symbolic win. “Progressives will be jammed into a corner and once again asked, ‘You’ve got to do this for the president so he can give a State of the Union address,'” he said. “As much as the State of the Union becomes critical, this is not something we can get beaten up on to vote for.”

Cooper has long attempted to use the Senate as cover for his own desire to water down real health care reform at the behest of the insurance industry. Previously, his refrain was that Senate Democrats didn’t have 60 votes, and therefore House Democrats needed to create a weaker bill in the name of “bipartisanship.” And now, in the closing days of this debate, Cooper is more than happy to give his Conservadem colleagues in the Upper House not only the upper hand, but the final word, on the shape of this legislation.

All according to plan for Jim Cooper and the Blue Dogs.

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Nashville Scene To Jim Cooper: “Where’s Our New Federal Courthouse?”

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 12/08/2009 – 10:52

The Nasvhille Scene reports this week on the convoluted tale of the still non-built new federal courthouse in Nashville. And Jim Cooper’s logic on why the courthouse still just exists only in renderings seems to be similarly twisted — not to mention transparently self-serving in his abdication of any and all responsibility:

The original draft of the stimulus legislation, in both House and Senate versions, indeed included the money to build the courthouse, but the legislative wrangling of the conference committee deleted the project from the final draft signed by the president. Interestingly, Cooper voted against the first version, but voted for the second.

No one really knows what happened to the money for Nashville. Other courthouse projects — in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego — stayed in the stimulus, but Nashville was bumped, the money instead going to help build a new Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Even Cooper still doesn’t know why the Nashville project disappeared back in the spring.

“A lot people don’t play fair,” he told The City Paper with a verbal shoulder shrug.

Tennessee bloggers like Mike at Enclave were asking questions of Cooper on his refusal to try to secure funding for projects like the courthouse back in March:

Mr. Cooper seems more committed to the his Blue Dog coalition than he does to those whom he is supposed to represent in Middle Tennessee.

He already voted against last week’s House appropriation to make $51 million in repairs to the seeping and sink-holed Center Hill Dam. If that dam is not repaired it could cause flooding across the Cumberland River Valley, including low-lying parts of Nashville. Almost two years ago I showed how a dam failure could be a major problem for almost all of East Germantown, as well as sections of Germantown and Salemtown neighborhoods.

Why is Mr. Cooper so opposed to domestic spending that could protect the welfare of our neighborhoods?