All seven Tennessee Republican congressmen voted against the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package approved by the U.S. House on Monday night – along with Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville. Cooper was the only Democrat in the nation to vote not. Stephen Hale asked him about it. 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. This is consistent with my past votes on deficits and on disaster relief. You should read the Washington Post editorial today. It’s excellent, pointing out how Congress regularly fails to handle our emergency responsibilities.
Another thing is, this isn’t any regular period in American history here. This is a period of budget crisis, literally. Because America’s been officially out of money since the first of the year. So we added to the deficit without even lifting a finger to offset the spending is pretty irresponsible at a time like this. You know, I love New England. My friends up there, if they need help, I voted for tens of billions of help, but to have the full package not even partially offset, it’s a new level of congressional spending.
— Note: Cooper sent out a press release statement on his vote. It’s below.
In something of a protest, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville voted for a Republican as Speaker of the House Thursday, but not John Boehner. He supported Colin Powell.
From WPLN: In a written statement after the vote, Cooper points out that the speaker does not have to be a member of the House. He says the Republican and former Secretary of State has a “proven ability to work across the aisle and has supported President Obama.”
Cooper was the only Colin Powell supporter, however there were more than a dozen other protest votes. Cooper himself received two votes for speaker. Also an outgoing congressman and a former comptroller were named along the way.
The rest of Tennessee’s congressional delegation supported their party’s nominee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Attorney General Bob Cooper released a legal opinion Friday raising constitutional concerns about a Tennessee law limiting the percentage of foreign workers at charter schools.
The opinion was requested by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who allowed the measure to become law without his signature in May. (Note: Text of opinion available HERE.)
Spokesman David Smith said the governor urges local education officials “to fully understand the implications of this law and their decisions about granting charter school applications.”
But Smith said the governor wouldn’t go so far as to urge them to disregard the law on the books that allows chartering authorities to reject or revoke a school’s application if more than 3.5 percent of the teachers and staff are foreigners in the H1B or J-1 visa programs.
Cooper said the ability of chartering authorities’ “ability to exercise such discretion could constitute a chilling effect upon a charter school retaining non-immigrant foreign workers with H-1B or J-1 visa since exceeding the 3.5 percent quota could jeopardize the charter school’s application or its continued existence.”
The opinion cites a series of state laws around the country that were declared unconstitutional for seeking to establish citizenship requirements for people to become licensed to practice careers in medicine, teaching, dentistry, pharmacy, law or civil engineering.
Republican Brad Staats hopes to channel public discontent with the federal health care reform law into a voter uprising to defeat Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper, who supported it. But The Tennessean reports he “could have a hard time” in one of the state’s last Democratic strongholds.” “People seem to be in a better mood than they were two years ago,” said Cooper, who survived the 2010 midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives and a 7-2 edge in the state’s congressional delegation.
Staats, who owns two security businesses, has never run for office before, while Cooper has served 11 terms in two different stints in Congress. The challenger’s campaign war chest, which he estimated at $55,000, is a small fraction of Cooper’s, which held more than $800,000 in July, the last time they filed reports.
Cooper said his opponent has been “almost invisible” so far, though he said he takes nothing for granted in a campaign. Political analyst Pat Nolan said he expects Cooper and everyone else in Tennessee’s delegation to be re-elected.
But Staats, while acknowledging his challenges, said the choice for voters in the5th Congressional District is clear. He said Cooper has tied himself to the health care reform law, which Staats describes as a vehicle that will drive the nation into a financial ditch.
“Any government that has ever reached 30 percent expenditure of their GDP (gross domestic product) has gone bankrupt,” he said. “With Obamacare, we will reach 30 percent expenditure within 18 months. That means America is bankrupt at that point. So, yes, I have a real problem with Obamacare, as all Americans, if they knew, should.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Monday he is throwing his support behind legislation that would cut off Congress members’ pay if they fail to pass a budget and spending bills, reports Michael Collins. The Maryville Republican said he will sign on as cosponsor of the No Budget, No Pay Act and would work to see that it becomes law.
“You wouldn’t get paid at the Grand Ole Opry if you showed up late and refused to sing,” Alexander said. “The same should apply to members of Congress who don’t do their jobs.”
The legislation, filed last December by U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., would halt congressional paychecks if Congress fails to pass all 12 of the annual spending bills by the beginning of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, as required by law. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, R-Nashville, has filed virtually the same bill in the U.S. House.
If approved, the “No Budget No Pay” requirement would kick in next year.
Congress hasn’t passed a budget in more than three years, but has kept the government running by approving a series of short-term spending resolutions.
News release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s office:
NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) has become the first elected official this election cycle to sign a pledge promising not to lobby once he leaves Congress.
“The power of money is overwhelming in Washington. I’ve said for years that Congress has become a farm league for K Street. Serving the public used to be considered the highest calling; now, many see it as a stepping stone to lucrative lobbying careers,” said Rep. Cooper. “I’m proud to be the first elected official this cycle to pledge not to lobby after I leave Congress, and I hope others will join me.”
The pledge is sponsored by Rootstrikers, a national network of activists fighting the corrupting influence of money in politics, founded by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig.
“A committed reformer of Congress, we could imagine no better member to be the first to take the pledge” than Rep. Cooper, said Lessig in a Huffington Post op-ed.
Pledge signers promise that if they are elected, they will not profit from lobbying for 10 years after serving in Congress. Visit www.rootstrikers.org/the_no_lobbying_pledge for more information.
Further, from The Tennessean: Lessig’s advocacy group, Rootstrikers, says members of Congress who are paid $174,000 a year get an average raise of 1,452 percent if they become a Washington lobbyist.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization, lists more than 300 former members of Congress registered as lobbyists. The issue is often referred to as the “Revolving Door.”
Biden’s Tennessee Connection
When Joe Biden started running for a Senate seat in 1972, few people thought the young man from Delaware had a chance, writes Michael Cass, but a well-placed Tennessee couple tagged him early as an up-and-comer. “I was 29 years old, running for the United States Senate against a guy with an 81 percent favorable rating, a year where Richard Nixon won my state by over 65 percent of the vote, and I was an Irish Catholic in a state that (had) never elected one,” Biden told Tennessee Democrats in a speech two years ago, recounting a story that got scant media attention at the time.
Biden pulled off a stunning, 3,162-vote upset with a mix of youthful vigor, skillful campaigning, energized volunteers and smart advertising — fueled by tens of thousands of dollars that a prominent Tennessee couple raised for his campaign. Ashley Action
Actress Ashley Judd put her high-wattage star power to use in the political arena on Tuesday by imploring Tennessee’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention to share personal stories of how their lives have improved under President Barack Obama, reports Michael Collins. Judd said Tennesseans have a rich history and tradition as storytellers that could be used to help the Obama administration make its case for another four years.
“With all of the obfuscation of the facts, with all of the distortions, we have to take the truth and the honesty and the accomplishments back,” the actress said to rousing applause.
Judd, who lives in Williamson County, is one of Tennessee’s 98 delegates and alternates to the national convention, which opened on Tuesday.
The actress was the guest speaker and star attraction at a Tennessee delegation breakfast Tuesday morning. She’ll also have another starring role tonight: She has been chosen to announce the state’s roll call vote from the convention floor when Democrats officially nominate Obama for a second term. Cooper’s Complaint
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville blasted Davidson County’s recent election problems Wednesday while urging his fellow Tennessee delegates to the Democratic National Convention to work hard to register voters between now and the Oct. 8 deadline, reports The Tennessean. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, folks,” Cooper said at the delegation’s breakfast. “We have got to get our folks registered.”
The congressman said recruiting Democrats to vote for President Barack Obama in November is especially critical in light of Davidson County’s “outrageous” situation. Some voters, including Sheriff Daron Hall, have said they were given Republican ballots by default after poll workers failed to ask them their party preference during the Aug. 2 primary. The county was using new electronic poll books in 60 of 160 precincts.
“This is unbelievable, that anything could be programmed like this to take voters and make them Republican,” Cooper said. “This isn’t like defaulting to R. This is like defrauding folks of their normal rights.
“The implications of this are something. If you treat the sheriff this way, you’ll treat anybody this way.”
The small print at the bottom of ads for federal politicians may soon get a new wrinkle — one that tells you to contribute to candidate X or Y by texting on your mobile phone, reports The Tennessean. The proposal comes from Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, who said he expects the Federal Election Commission to give its final approval to the idea sometime this week.
“More and more people use their phones for just about anything,” Cooper said in an interview. “It’s so convenient.”
A whole generation of Americans, he added, has grown up with texting as central to their lifestyles. And Americans are used to texting to donate to charities of all kinds.
Different candidates, Cooper said, would have different five-digit codes that could be listed on their advertising.
The idea is to encourage more people to contribute to campaigns through small-dollar donations, counteracting the influence of millionaires and billionaires who max out in their contributions to candidates and political action committees and give unlimited amounts to Super PACs and other groups.
“It allows small donors to have a louder voice,” Cooper said
Businessman Brad Staats declared victory in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District on Friday after a count of provisional ballots showed there was no way for his main rival to overcome a 44-vote deficit in Thursday’s tallies, according to TheTennessean. Vote totals compiled by the state showed Staats received 5,459 votes to 5,415 for Bob Ries as they and three others fought for the right to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in November.
Staats’ campaign said just 24 provisional ballots were cast in Davidson, Cheatham and Dickson counties, the three counties in the district.
“I want to congratulate all my opponents on the great — and sometimes spirited — campaigns they ran,” Staats said in a news release. “As I’m sure some of them would agree, this campaign was never about any of us — but rather about changing the direction of our federal government.”
Staats, 43, lives and works in Hermitage, where he owns a security business.
Dorothy Cooper was the first senior citizen to get media notice for problems in getting a photo ID to vote. Olean Blount of Carroll County is the latest. From the Tennessean: Three trips. More than 120 miles. Three hours with her daughter in the car.
That is what it took for Olean Blount to get the right identification card to cast her ballot.
“I don’t know why I needed it,” she said. “Everybody around here knows me.”
The 92-year-old woman from Westport, a crossroads 11 miles southeast of Huntingdon in Carroll County, says she spent the better part of two days trying to get a picture ID in time for the March presidential primary.
…Because Carroll County lacks a driver service center, Blount and her daughter drove first to the clerk’s office in neighboring Benton County, only to be sent home because a camera was broken. They returned a few days later but were told then that the county clerk could not issue her an ID card after all. County clerks could issue a photo ID only in exchange for a non-photo driver’s license, available in Tennessee to senior citizens.
They next traveled to the driver service center in Henry County, where Blount was issued an ID. But they were wrongly charged $9.50 for the card, which by law was supposed to be issued free of charge. Blount got a refund, but she does not feel that she got her money’s worth.
“That was back when gas was around $5,” she recalled with only a slight exaggeration. “So I didn’t get my money refunded, all of it.”