It’s a guarantee that during every Congressional cycle, Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper will cast a vote that raises the cackles of the left wing.
His fierce fiscal convictions get him labeled as obstructionist or worse by folks more liberal than he. The wonkish Cooper is always ready with an explanation — more often than not, a very thorough explanation — for why he opposed the latest progressive plan.
He’s done it with the Clinton health-care reform package, with the bailouts, with part of the stimulus, and on and on.
And when Cooper does cast a nay against the wishes of the broader party, those to his left invariably call for a primary challenge, to oust this most cerulean of the Blue Dogs.
After all, they note, his district is heavily Democratic and, this logic follows, far more liberal than the moderate Cooper.
And again, invariably, any progressive wunderkind’s idealism is quashed once they take a gander at Cooper’s war chest — the Realpolitick of real politics trumping their grand vision.
So again it was last week when Cooper was the only Democrat to vote no on the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package.
Earlier this month, Cooper voted to approve $9.7 billion in federal flood insurance and had supported a bill earlier that approved $17 billion in disaster relief.
But by the time the whole $50 billion came to the floor, it became a bridge too far for Cooper.
He explained that his vote was more of a statement against profligate Congressional spending — of course it was.
“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 fraction 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,” he told our Steven Hale.
Cooper earned the hypocrite label from the liberal commentariat. After all, he’d pushed for post-flood relief for Nashville. Cooper, again, pointed out that relief was “at least partially paid for.”
And the vote likely created some awkward moments at the Tennessee Democratic Party, which earlier had cast the Republican members of the state’s delegation as “disaster hypocrites” for similarly supporting Nashville relief and opposing Sandy. They boxed themselves into a corner by casting one of the few prominent remaining Tennessee Democrats with members of the opposition.
If nothing else, Cooper’s vote does look pharisaical. Disasters are sui generis. They aren’t politics-as-usual; that’s what makes them disasters. Even if the way they are paid for is broken, the time to point this out is probably not after the city you represent benefited from the broken system.
His vote is worthy of rebuke and there will be much of the usual chatter about primarying the vet legislator.
But, like all the other tries, this chatter will be fruitless too.