Cut Social Security

Cooper Approves As Conservadems Threaten To Hold Nation Hostage To Cut Social Security

Submitted by Charles on Fri, 11/27/2009 – 13:04

It appears that Kent Conrad is now taking the lead in the Senate on the fight for the Cooper Commission (aka the “Catfood Commission”) that would abdicate Congress’ authority and fast-track cuts to Social Security and Medicare while making them more politically palatable:

The Conrad-Gregg commission would be able to make recommendations that Congress would have to actively reject with an up or down vote and no filibuster, actually taking the lawmaking process out of the hands of elected lawmakers. And the commission would surely favor cuts to social spending programs, a long-sought goal of those who are advocating for it.

A group of fiscal scolds in the Senate are intimating that they would refuse to agree to raise the debt limit, sending the nation into default, if this commission was not convened.

Chris Bowers at Open Left has described these tactics as being essentially a “national suicide pact”:

Let’s review the threat that these five Democrats are making:

* They will allow the United States to default on its debt, which will vastly increase the overall amount we have to pay on our debt

UNLESS

* Speaker Nancy Pelosi turns over Congressional power on Social Security and Medicare to an unelected commission that will almost certainly propose deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare entitlements. Keep in mind that if deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare pass under a Democratic trifecta, the party would be doomed at the ballot box for years to come.

This is completely insane, and there is no choice but to call this bluff.

Indeed, the statutory debt limit was raised seven times by Congress as President Bush racked up deficits while spending hundreds of billions in Iraq – from $5.9 trillion on the day he took office in January 2001 to $11.3 trillion on the day he left in January 2009. Each time, Congress needed to vote to increase the debt ceiling. And each time, the “fiscally responsible” Blue Dogs were largely silent.

Certainly there was nothing approaching these types of threats we are now seeing approved of by Jim Cooper:

The other track is by December the Senate will have to vote on raising the debt ceiling. Seven senators have now committed to not vote for that increase. I think seven Democratic senators, unless the bipartisan entitlement reform commission that I have long championed is part of the bill.

When Jim Cooper says he has “long championed” this commission to address cuts in Medicare and Social Security, he is entirely correct. In 2006 he compared the coming “crisis” in Social Security to Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, “Mr. Fiscal Responsibility” himself was named the DLC “New Dem of the Week” for launching a “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” in partnership with the right-wing Heritage Foundation. In fall 2008, Jim Cooper was described by The Hill as a “modern day Paul Revere,” sounding the alarm on a supposed “crisis” in Medicare and Social Security — just days before he would vote for the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street bankers while worrying that even $700 Billion was “not big enough”.

Through the entire Bush presidency, Jim Cooper’s obsession with the issue strangely did not translate into any threats of action. But now that a Democratic president took office in a time of unprecedented economic crisis, he — along with his allies in the Senate — is willing to hold the entire nation hostage in order to fast-track cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

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Cooper: Bailouts For Wall Street Bankers, Fast-Tracked Cuts For Social Security?

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 11/18/2009 – 14:51

Roll Call reports today that the Jim Cooper-led Blue Dog effort to create a powerful bipartisan commission that could fast-track cuts to Social Security and Medicare advanced significantly last night:

In a direct challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition voted Tuesday night to endorse a powerful bipartisan commission with fast-track authority to bring legislation to the House and Senate floor that would slash the federal deficit.

If House Republicans join with the Blue Dogs, they would have the votes to roll Pelosi, who has long opposed the idea. Blue Dogs will also have leverage to push the idea when House leaders bring their jobs package to the floor next month.

The SAFE Commission, sponsored by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), would set up an appointed group tasked with cutting the deficit and would have broad authority to propose tax hikes and spending reductions.

“I believe that the greatest threat to our nation’s economic security is our long-term fiscal imbalance,” Cooper said in a statement. “A fiscal reform commission will help Congress face these tough issues. Blue Dog support for this commission is crucial for its passage.”

This is not exactly news – Cooper has been pushing for just such a “fast-track” commission for ages, and recently testified in favor of the proposal, diagnosing the United States with “fiscal cancer” in front of a Senate committee considering similar legislation.

But just over a year ago, as the Wall Street bailout was being debated in Congress, where was Rep. Jim “Fiscal Responsibility” Cooper? Was he arguing about the horrific effect the bailout would have on the nation’s “fiscal cancer”?

Nope.

He was arguing that the Wall Street bailout was too small:

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…”

And this past summer, as Congress debated the war supplemental, where was Rep. Jim “Fiscal Responsibility” Cooper?

Politico reported he voted no on the original supplemental in May due to “budget concerns”. But after $108 billion for the International Monetary Fund was added by the Senate, Cooper ended up changing his vote to “aye”.

As for the fast-track commission proposed by Reps. Cooper and Wolf, here is what Barbara Kennelly, former Democratic Congresswoman from CT and President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, had to say about it in front of Congress last year:

The National Committee is very concerned about the inflated fiscal rhetoric surrounding Social Security and Medicare. Often the future costs of these programs are inappropriately combined to generate an enormous multi-trillion dollar number to advance the notion that spending on entitlements is out of control. While Social Security and Medicare, in combination, are designed to provide older Americans with a sound foundation in their old age, they are in fact two very different programs.

Contrary to some accounts, Social Security is not facing bankruptcy but has a funding gap which is both modest and manageable. This gap is based primarily on demographics. Medicare, on the other hand, is a health care program. Most of its cost increases are being driven by the inflation in overall health care, not demographics. The reasons for these health care cost increases are many and complex and need to be addressed in a larger context. Cutting Medicare benefits without addressing this larger problem will only shift additional costs onto Medicare beneficiaries. …

We believe that a commission that focuses on Social Security and Medicare in the context of the federal budget, with little regard for the critical role these programs play in the income and health security of future retirees, would be inherently biased and would inevitably result in a reduction in the standard of living of older Americans.

Rep. Cooper only seems to care about “fiscal responsibility” when it’s the most vulnerable of his constituents who would feel the pain the most — and not his corporate backers.

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Cooper Thinks Obama Admin Doesn’t Understand Stupak Amendment

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 11/17/2009 – 14:27

So says GoldnI today, a bit snarkily:

As has been noted, of course, [Stupak] would drastically change the status quo. It would make it nearly impossible for people within the exchange to buy a plan that covers the same basic service that most private plans do now, even if they’re paying for the plan with their own money.

…But I’m sure that the President just doesn’t understand the intricacies of the legislative process and all of these difficult questions that need to be asked.

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What Do These 20 Dems Have In Common?

Submitted by Charles on Mon, 11/16/2009 – 07:45

CREDO action created an online petition last week targeting 20 “formerly pro-choice Democrats” who voted for the Stupak amendment restricting abortion rights. Jim Cooper, of course, was one of the 20. You can view photos of all 20 here.

Aunt B. took a look at the photos, and asks Rep. Cooper if he noticed anything similar about he and his 19 colleagues:

Oh, Jim Cooper, did you not even have a moment when you looked at the other Democrats in your group where you felt weird, like something was strange about this, even though you could not put your finger on what it was?

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Cooper Tennessean Liveblog Highlights

Submitted by Charles on Thu, 11/12/2009 – 16:20

Some interesting answers from Rep. Jim Cooper during an interview with the Tennessean editorial board today.

On his vote for the Stupak amendment:

“There’s no denying it’s a subsidy and it’s direct. So if you’re applying the Hyde Amendment, I think most people want to preserve the status quo….

“In a confusing situation, it looked like it was coming closer to codifying the status quo than any other approach. … It involves applying a 1977 doctrine [the Hyde Amendment] to a new House bill. … This is not easy, simple stuff. It’s going to be an interesting question how direct or indirect subsidies are applied.”

On how he thinks his pro-choice female constituents should react to his vote for Stupak:

“Most of the House bill is not going to be seriously considered by the Senate. … What’s the most important issue. Getting health care to every man, woman and child in this country. … If you keep your eye on the ball, including for most women’s issues, the most important thing is providing affordable health care.”

On the state of health care legislation right now:

“The simple answer is the Senate will act and it will be sent to conference. … [But] There are a number of senators saying they’re not going to send it to conference. They’re going to say to the House take it or leave it. … They know what they have to do to get the 60 votes. … If you peel back the layers further, you realize it may be may difficult for the Senate to vote on anything. … A 60-vote majority is very fragile. … I’d say health reform, despite the House vote, is still on life support.”

On if he feels pressure from progressives:

“There are folks running in various other districts but maybe I’m blind to something. I haven’t seen any major activity here. I think we dodged that bullet months ago. As for the Daily Kos, I don’t know where he lives. I pay attention to the local folks.”

On his interactions with Speaker Pelosi:

[Q] What did Nancy Pelosi give you for your vote?

“The answer is nothing. … It’s really not like she’s ever done anything for me. If I’ve gotten anything, it’s the back of her hand. But it’s not about me….”

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Tennessean Editorial Board Liveblog with Cooper Today at 1pm CT

Submitted by Charles on Thu, 11/12/2009 – 12:28

Jim Cooper is visiting with The Tennessean’s editorial board today, and the paper will be liveblogging the event on their website at 1pm:

Rep. Jim Cooper will be at 1100 Broadway at 1 p.m. this afternoon to talk with the editorial board. Top of the agenda will almost assuredly be health care reform, including his votes for the House plan and the Stupak amendment, as well as the legislation’s future in the Senate.

Check back here for a liveblog of the discussion.

Here’s the link.

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Quote Of The Day

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 11/11/2009 – 10:30

“Health reform would simply not have passed without the Stupak Amendment.”

– Rep. Jim Cooper, attempting to explain his vote in favor of the Stupak Amendment severely restricting abortion rights.

“The forty members who stood strong with me through this whole deal, I think at least 15 will not vote for the bill no matter what, even if Stupak is adopted,” he said. “Then there might still have been ten to 15 who would vote for it even if we didn’t get our amendment.”

So enough to put it over the top?

“It should be,” he said.

– Rep. Bart Stupak, right before the vote, saying that the health care bill would have passed whether or not his amendment was approved.

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More Reaction To Stupak Vote — And Cooper’s False Excuse

Submitted by Charles on Tue, 11/10/2009 – 15:38

The response to Jim Cooper’s vote in favor of the Stupak Amendment – and his subsequent bewildering explanation of it – continues to pour in strongly, especially from women in his district. Here’s a post by BaxterBlogs describing a letter to the editor she sent the Congressman:

Oh, one more thing Jim: I have a lot of friends who listen to me. Many women as a matter of fact. But then what do you care? You don’t care much for women anyway. Their vote apparently doesn’t count. In case you thought I was the only one feeling this way, here is a great Blog Post by Mary Mancini: http://www.liberadio.com/2009/11/09/an-open-letter-to-jim-cooper-asks-why/ . She is a lot nicer than I am. She writes better than I do. She has even more friends than I do. And the best part, she has a vibrant radio show and active blog. You have upset the wrong people Jim. We aren’t barefoot in the kitchen anymore. Did you forget that?

As for your re-election Jim: Good Luck With That!

Here’s the post referenced above by Mary Mancini of Liberadio:

And, might I add, the Stupak Amendment will do absolutely nothing to reduce the number of abortions in the United States. It will, however, take away a potential life-saving treatment for more than half the population of the country. If legislators truly wanted to curtail the number of abortions in the US, they would work on curtailing the number of unintended pregnancies by increasing federal funding for comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education in the classroom and through public and private health agencies…

According to Cooper’s office, and confirmed by Marcus’s analysis, it was either the Stupak amendment or no passage of the bill. Cooper’s choice is understandable. What’s sad – and what I most hate about this game – is that he was forced to make it.

In fact, Cooper’s excuse that passing the Stupak Amendment was necessary to ensure passage of the bill is one that has been completely debunked… by none other than Rep. Stupak himself before the vote took place:

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) told reporters that regardless of the outcome of the vote on his amendment, which would severely restrict coverage of reproductive health issues, the House health care bill is headed for passage.