Cooper discusses his vote on health care reform

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:45pm

Rep. Jim Cooper must be one of the few House Democrats who is even remotely satisfied with the way health care reform passed last weekend.

To get approval for the base reform bill that the president has now signed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to swallow a foul-tasting pill and hustle a 100 percent additive-free Senate bill on the House floor. Her progressive peers looked on as a strong employer mandate and the millionaire’s tax were swept into the dustbin. And they had no guarantee that the Senate would sign off on any of the fixes the House wanted, particularly given the Hatfield-McCoy-esque bicameral feud between the chambers.

Yet while progressives squirmed under centrist compromise, and Blue Dogs from conservative districts writhed beneath an intense populist pressure back home that most buckled under, Cooper was sitting pretty here in Nashville. This moderate Democrat — with no allegiance to the more liberal House bill and an affinity for the restrained, fiscally modest Senate bill — was cool in an undecided hinterland, leveraging himself against the House bill with a deliberately ambiguous position. Meanwhile, doctors were lighting up the switchboards at his office, encouraging him to vote for reform. Then Nashville’s hospitals came out for the Senate bill. It was with registered surprise that onlookers saw the historically conservative American Medical Association offer its support, however tepid.

This turned out to be a no-sweat vote for Cooper.

After casting an initial leap-of-faith vote in November for a House bill he didn’t care for and with an eye toward a Senate bill that hadn’t yet passed, Cooper and his moderates slapped a “deeply upset” House leadership by locking arms with Republicans in a dramatic gambit. So keen is some House Democrats’ loathing of the Senate, Cooper told The City Paper, that they opted to use an awkward parliamentary rule — oft-used by both parties — to append amendments to the Senate bill without actually voting on it.

Cooper believed it would put passage of the Senate bill in jeopardy. And he didn’t care for the reconciliation bill, which he said adds $200 billion to the overall price tag. So Cooper made sure House leadership knew his vote was not, by any stretch, in the bag. Then Cooper, along with moderate Democrats and a whole passel of Republicans, voted to force an up-or-down vote on “deem and pass,” and Democrats abandoned the approach, clinging desperately to waffling moderates.

Now Cooper was free to vote first for the Senate bill, then to oppose the reconciliation bill. Plus, Cooper said, it eliminated the threat that such parliamentary maneuvering could provide ammunition for federal judges seeking to make names for themselves by ruling the entire bill unconstitutional. “It’s not an out-of-bounds technique, but in this divisive environment, we need to keep things straight down the middle,” he said.

‘Ghost stories’

Cooper was able to vote for the bill while preserving his stance as a deficit hawk.

In his estimation, punditry has ignored opportunity costs and what they mean when interpreting the cost of doing nothing to curb a $3 trillion-a-year increase in unfunded obligations — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Items in the Senate bill, like insurance exchanges that foster healthy competition among private insurers, curb the increase. A tax on “Cadillac plans,” or insurance plans that cost more than $27,500 annually, does it, too. Not to mention a “bundling” program that would set up a single fee for treating an illness rather than the prevailing pay-per-treatment mode that leads to inefficiencies when health care providers are incentivized to treat more in order to get paid more.

Those are a few things that will cut the cost of this country’s greatest expense — a health care system that is estimated to waste as much as $700 billion a year, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis. And they bend the cost curve Cooper rails about like the sunken-eyed, bearded man blocking the sidewalk, intoning, “The end is near.” Only we are sinking into a hole that could lower the credit rating of the United States, a Moody’s analyst has warned. And the right bend in the cost curve could be just enough to take us down the right fork in the railway split, away from the loss of the AAA rating the world’s richest nation currently enjoys.

Or, as Cooper said, take that $3 trillion in unfunded obligations, divide it by 365 days and see what you get. Answer: $16 billion a day is the opportunity cost of doing nothing. That number alone made his decision to vote for reform an easy one, he said. If people understood that number, he added, it might go a long way toward dispelling the myth that only Republicans are fiscally conservative.

“One of the main things people don’t understand about politics is that opposites attract,” Cooper said. “Only Nixon could go to China. Only a liberal Democratic president like Barack Obama can curb entitlement spending, so we need to let him do that.”

Having, in part, helped to ensure moderate legislation found its way to Obama’s pen Tuesday morning, Cooper is content to let him do just that, his deficit-curmudgeon stripes intact and unsullied, and cries that he’s on the take in this health care town largely silenced — Cooper was paid more by companies seeking to defeat reform than those seeking its passage, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sure, he said, the bill isn’t perfect. Cooper wishes we were paying for the entire insurance coverage expansion by whittling down waste instead of implementing new taxes.

As for the pall of partisanship hanging over the bill, Cooper is unmoved. He estimated there are 20 to 30 Republicans who wanted to vote for health care but feared losing their seats. They’d been maneuvered into a corner by some of the party’s more fanatical factions.

“Sometimes when people tell ghost stories,” he said, “people believe there are ghosts.”

34 Comments on this post:

By: tv8527 on 3/29/10 at 3:14

This is such horse S@!#. I am going to do my best to see this man unseated ( I realize I'm a bit like Don Quixote ) here in the 5th district.This man has put us deeper in debt & voted for a bill that the ppl didn't want & will be overturned in the courts.Clearly he is a lap dog of the satanic woman Mrs Pelosi & her cronies & I'm just wondering what he got if anything in the backroom dealing that went on.

By: richgoose on 3/29/10 at 3:52

If we can get a candidate that we can become united with I think we can beat this charlatan the next time he runs.

By: timtrader03 on 3/29/10 at 5:09

This isn't a story it is a fairy tales re-election ad for Cooper. We are going to do everything to see that he is defeated next election. He is on his way out. Let him find a job where he can shovel his crap out to someone else.

By: idgaf on 3/29/10 at 5:48

Cooper is full of cow manure. He said he wouldn't vote for Peliosi as speaker he did.

He avoided confilict on his votes on health care by maintaining he was "undecided" until the vote then voted as the queen wanted him to. Now (as before) he is trying to justify his vote with lame excuses. He is no "moderate" and his votes speak for themselves. Whatever Nancy wants Nancy gets.

His votes say he is just as progressive as Barry, Pelosi and Reid.

If you want to continue down the path to socialism Jimmy is your boy.

If not take him to the woodshed.

By: Shemeka on 3/29/10 at 5:52

I have been an R.N. for over 20 years. I work for 30 physicians. I have worked for the "healthcare giant" most of those years. I have worked in hospitals, free-standing facilities and have volunteered my services. I HAVE NOT HEARD ONE SINGLE PHYSICIAN OR NURSE SAY THEY SUPPORT THIS BILL! I agree there is some need to control the insurance company's and government's raping of those of us that get up everyday to work and support our families AND pay taxes to support those of you who are too lazy to do so. This article is an example of how our liberal media prints anything the politicians feed them...regardless of the truth. Cooper must go and my family of 4 voters are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to unseat you. City Paper and Cooper...I hope you sleep well each night with your lies.

By: Shemeka on 3/29/10 at 6:03

While I have much more I would like to say about Cooper, Pelosi, Obama and a government on an out of control spending spree.....I must get to work to support my family and (because taxes force me to...the "CONSUMERS")....for you see, I am a "PRODUCER".

By: WittySage on 3/29/10 at 6:10

MY SISTER DIED BECAUSE OF PREEXISTING CONDITION. She would still be alive today if you monsters who are against reining in the insurance companies had not killed her for your own greed. This bill is a God send.

By: Shemeka on 3/29/10 at 6:50

I do not know you or your sister, but I can say I am sorry that you lost her. My point is not in any means to argue with you, but I want you to know, as a nurse, in 22 years I personally have never denied or seen a patient denied care at any facility I have worked for. If you show up at our door, you get medical care. I care for all my patients equally, regardles of financial status, political views, religion, race, etc. I also know while it is too late for your sister, please know that Nashville (if that is where you reside) has organizations that provide medical care regardless of pre-existing conditions or insurance status. And in case I am misunderstood, I do not think ANY insurance company should deny coverage based on a preexisting condition. And that is speaking from the heart from someone who also has one.

By: idgaf on 3/29/10 at 7:02

How many of people that want someone else to pay for their health care would accept a free flight to Cuba to get it?

This bill will spend us into that kind of health care.

If they could run it why isn't Medicare solvant and why do they pay at or near cost expecting doctors to work for nothing.

btw they have the most refusals of care. More then ALL of the evil insurance companies combined.

You are buying their propaganda which will destroy the best health care system in the world.

By: Citizen on 3/29/10 at 7:02


I, too, am sorry for the loss of your sister.

However, the issue is not that a person is denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Not having insurance coverage does not preclude getting treatment, it just means the cost will have to be borne by someone other than the insurance company.

By: cmarcus45 on 3/29/10 at 7:25

Just since Obama took office, Cooper has voted for the spending/stimulus bill, cap and trade, and the health bill twice. That's not fiscally sound by any stretch of the imagination. Let's vote him out.

By: applebyb on 3/29/10 at 7:26

I guess we all understand that the City Paper no longer drug tests employees after reading Brantley Hargrove's article. He MUST be smoking something to write this fairy tale and portray it as "news/analysis".
Rep. Cooper should not only be voted out of office, he should be run out of Tennessee!!
He lied to his constituents regarding his position on the bill, and this "cover story" does not change that fact.

By: slewfoot on 3/29/10 at 7:52

Another politician riding the coattails of his father's name...just like Gore, Bush, McWherter. etc....why do we elect 2nd generation morons??

By: DPSEARCH2K on 3/29/10 at 7:57

There is no need for name calling and profanity. We all know Cooper is a skilled politician and always has talking points to support his votes. The real question is: aren't you tired of politicians not telling us the truth? The facts are simple, the federal govt. is spending us into a disaster. We need to elect people of character who will go to D.C. with the clear mission of slashing spending by 50%, cutting all taxes, and stopping this intrusive regulation. It's not about party, it's about what we need individuals to do. Patrick Miranda is taking on Cooper and I believe if we all support him, he'll win (
You want to do something today to let Cooper know his days are numbered? Help Patrick raise enough funds to be able to run radio and TV ads showing what Cooper has voted for and what was just a trick (the old Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it" trick.

By: parris001 on 3/29/10 at 8:14

Cooper will pay, oh will he pay for the decision to side with Pelosi.

By: vechester on 3/29/10 at 8:15

As a constituent, I have called and written Cooper's office many times on the health care issue. And, he is abundantly clear on where I stand on this atrocity. Cooper, like so many multi-term politicians has lost his local focus on "we the people." It happens to almost every political representative we send to DC.

I can't think of any reason why any politician would need more than 4 or 6 years to serve in any political function. If term limits are good enough for the highest office in the land, then they are good enough for any other elected position. Mr. Cooper needs to go! (I don't call him Representative any more because he stopped representing my views as a constituent long ago, and maybe never did.)


By: RealityRosie on 3/29/10 at 8:16




By: vechester on 3/29/10 at 8:27

Everyone please note that when you see a comment for civility anywhere, it is because a liberal is losing the debate. It's their way of trying to shut up the masses that DON'T LIKE THE HEALTH CARE BILL.

See Rosie, unlike you, I know the use of CAPS is to indicate I am shouting!

Virtual Reality Rosie needs a reality check. There is an overwhelming lack of support for Obamacare.

By: JohnGalt on 3/29/10 at 8:30

Cooper was able to vote for the bill while preserving his stance as a deficit hawk.

Obviously Hargrove is discussing a bill we haven't seen yet.

By: auburnproud7 on 3/29/10 at 9:09

Speaking of Ghost stories: 'Meanwhile, doctors were lighting up the switchboards at his office, encouraging him to vote for reform.'

There is not a single doctor or nurse I have talked with (my step-mom is a Nurse Practitioner, my sister is a life-flight paramedic, a close friend is an anasthesiologist, another is head of Vanderbilt Medical Center, another is a heart surgeon). NONE of the aforementioned medical specialists support this shabby bill!!!

Don't believe in Ghosts.

By: Slappy on 3/29/10 at 9:38

This article is nothing more than the congressman showing exactly how spineless he is in the face of controversy. Instead of taking a stand and representing his constituents, he has made a weak and pathetic attempt to justify his support.

This guy is nothing more than a socialist pretending to be moderate.

Our forefathers would roll over in their graves were they to see how our sense of entitlement has trumped over the freedom they fought and died for! This process was a sham, the economic justification was a sham and Cooper is responsible in part for that regardless of how he wants to paint his decision.

Thank God for representatives like Marsha Blackburn who have the guts to take a stand and the spine to see that through to the end!

By: uncle cicero on 3/29/10 at 10:12

Here's the key piece of analysis missing in this article: Cooper sits in a district almost as safe for Democrats as Nancy Pelosi's. That's why he voted for this bill. His "deficit-hawk" reputation is window dressing for the rest of Tennessee. If 2012 looked like a Democratic year, he would be running for governor. For now, he is just biding his time.

By: Triton21 on 3/29/10 at 10:29

Did anyone see the news story that came out in the tennessean online just a couple of days after the bill passed stating that Cooper's finance director Jerry E. Martin was nominated by Obama to become U.S. Attorney for middle Tennessee?

Suspicious timing if you ask me.

As far as I'm concerned i'll be doing my part to make sure he is not re-elected.

By: wasaw on 3/29/10 at 10:47

I e-mailed Cooper three (3) times prior to the vote for the "Healthcare" albatross. How many of you think he took the time to send me an answer? I asked him how he was going to vote. He didn't take the time to send me an answer. I guess he was still smoozing with Pelosi to determine how much money she is going to send him from her PAC. Oh, and I'm sure that that he was not influenced by his finance director, Jerry Martin, being nominated by Barry Soetoro aka Barrack Hussein Obama, to be the new middle Tennessee U.S. Attorney. I'm sure Cooper would like us to believe that the nomination was co-incidental to the vote. Cooper so underestimates the electorate. Cooper is another career lapdog politician who is selling America down the river.

By: koolbass on 3/29/10 at 11:29

HE LOST MY VOTE...I generally don't vote by the party but for the man. I will not only vote AGAINST him, but I will send money to whatever candidate is on the ballot running against matter what party. This will be the first time I've ever helped a political candidate financially.

This entire article is an insult to my intelligence, and a failed attempt to try to put lipstick on a pig!!

By: TharonChandler on 3/29/10 at 11:35

And Harry Reid said he would Not compromise. They have ALL compromised everything into a big debt for the people and a give-away to the rich.

I don't need Healthcare!

We all need to stop paying a bunch of corrupt Doctors and the lawyers who Sue them.

By: Butch on 3/29/10 at 11:38

Mr. Cooper has lied to us. I voted for him because I supported Bob Clement who is a decent man and did his best to represent the people of Middle Tennessee (he voted 50% of the time with Republicans in his last years in Congress). Mr. Cooper has prooved he is not such a man. He has supported government supported open abortion when most of his constituents are opposed. (Most support abortion when the wife's life is in danger, or the baby is severely deformed). He supports abortion if the woman chooses she doesn't want the baby. He supports the government paying people of similar disposition who choose not to work. And now he supports the government forcing people to purchase something they may not want. Most Americans will be furious when they see the fine print of this bell. Evidently he and many of his comrades have not read the "Bill or Rights" or the "American Constitution" He fell or Obama's secret promise to diligently campaign in the time between now and the November elections to make Americans think he is centrist and truly represents most Americans. That's why he showed up in the Middle East War zone to read a speech to our troops. We'll see many similar actions soon. They must think Americans are all ignorant. Mr. Cooper has fallen for such rhetoric and can no longer represent us. Take heart friends. We'll have a new Congress in November. Pelosi and her comrades will be on the sideline. I think the bill can and will be repealed. And when the dust clears there's a real possibility Mr. Obama will be impeached when the truth of his "American roots" comes out. Most blacks even will support that when the truth is known. We have been a great nation (not a perfect one) and will be again!!!!

By: kennyj on 3/29/10 at 3:27

Cooper is a hippocrite. I called him during the recess re health care reform. He immediately became an Obama apologist. During the conversation he told me several surgeons came to his office asking him not to support the bill as they felt it was not in the doctors best interest. He told them their lobby (the AMA) was ineffective. Never mind that the AMA only represents 18% of the Nation's physicians.

The healthcare industry was surprisingly quiet during the debate. Now all facets are getting behind the act as passed. The reason they stayed so quiet is the greedy bastards knew it was going to line their pockets at the expense of the middle class.

There never has been, and never will be, a free lunch as the politicians would have you believe. Besides, in my 67 years, I have seen Congress and the Bureaucracy screw up everything it touches. Now we have the new buzzword "unintended consequences" to excuse their ineptitude.

I'm looking forward to November.

By: truconservative on 3/29/10 at 4:11

We are very fortunate to have Jim Cooper as our representative in Congress. He is a true patriot...he didn't duck the politacally difficult issue of health care and the great majority of us will be better off because of it. Remember the GOP talked repeal of Social Security until Ike told them to forget it. They will be talking repeal, but most, but not all will reject the notion. Polls really don't count, as the talk show idiots and cable news folks love to spew out untruths and distortions. It really depends on how the question is asked, as is always the truth in polls....and the questions are either slanted or so broad they are worthless. As a high income individual, I'll be paying more in taxes, which I am proud to do.....rather than continue to GOP tricks of passing on costs to our grandchildren (two tax cuts, two wars, adding prescription drugs to medicare) to help my fellow Americans. I am an American who has worked hard and benefited greatly, and I don't mind helping those less fortunate. I am also a Christian who tries to consider What Would Jesus Do....I think he would support the idea of the government helping it's citizens with health care. I am a true conservative in Nashville.

By: tdterry1999 on 3/29/10 at 6:37

Vote Cooper out.Send him to CA.Don't need him in TN.

By: shef2 on 3/29/10 at 6:46


By: sccowan on 3/30/10 at 2:42

"I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes, I lost my little darlin' the night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz"

Sound familiar mr cooper? we all lost our "little darlin" so you could do a little cheek-to-cheek with the boss hog peelowsi and her gang of terrorists and pull a little extra cash into the state. How embarrassing that is! You bowed to every special interest out there and rubbed it into the faces of your constituents by hiding from us. Finally, at the last minute, when your sugar daddy Vandy, some medical supporters, and some corporate supporters came out and "announced" their support, you had the political cover you needed to do what you intended to do from the beginning.

Last Fall, you voted the house bill thru to the senate "to force the senate to do something", your words in emails and the media. What ever happened to voting on a bill based upon it's merit? You expressed concerns about that bill as well as the senate bill which was came back to you, yet, no guts to back up your concerns.

I am reminded of a late 60's protest song written by Songwriter Hall of Famer, Joe South, and remade and totally rearranged by The Spinners. The song name "The Games People Play" and the group's name "The Spinners " both seem most appropriate in describing your service to Tennesseans and all Americans.

"Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean

And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they're covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine."

-------------- skip chorus -------------

"Look around tell me what you see
What's happening to you and me
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am

Cause you've given up your sanity
For your pride and your vanity
Turns you sad on humanity
And you don't give a da da da da da"

I guess ole Joe knew you better 40 years ago than we do today!

Here's ole Joe's version:

By: feefifofum1 on 3/30/10 at 8:26

Cooper, you are a liar. LIAR. I am deeply entrenched in health care and not ONE physician I know supports this bill. Many of them are going to take hits to Medicare fees, which are already losing propositions for them. They suspect even more government paperwork, when its already too much. And what really riled them was the labcoat photo ops by Obama.

Those phone calls into Coopers office, from "doctors", either didn't happen, or were calls from supporters who said they were doctors. This entire health care plan process has been a sham.

I am not in your district, but will be writing a nice check to your opponent when the time comes. You are not a hawk, but just political slime.

By: feefifofum1 on 3/30/10 at 8:34

And to "tru conservative", do you really think you have fooled anyone with your facade? You are a typical liberal, who thinks everyone but you is stupid. Pretending to be a conservative shows how desperate you are. One too many cracks about the GOP and social security, talk radio idiots, happy to pay more taxes, and presumption that this new bill will actually save our kids from debt (when it adds a trillion WITH new taxes), indicate that you are a pretender.

I would have had more respect if you had just been honest about your position, but then its difficult for a liberal to be honest. For them, the ends justify the means. Obama is a walking talking example of that.