Cooper Shields Defense, Not Health Care

Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper is trying to shield the Pentagon from looming budget cuts while telling the hometown health care industry to prepare for a new reality.

Automatic cuts triggered by failure of the Congressional supercommittee will hit Medicare, which drives profits at hospital chains and medical supply companies based in Nashville. But Congressman Cooper says the entitlement must be cut if it’s going to last. He says companies that depend on reimbursement from the program need to find a plan B.

“Lots of reimbursement problems exist in our state. We need to be aware of those and be prepared for when the gravy train is no longer coming.”

Some Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation exempting Medicare from the automatic cuts. But Cooper’s concern is the Defense Department, which spent nearly $700 billion this year. By some estimates that’s as much as six times the military spending in second-place China. But Cooper says the Pentagon can’t risk another country coming even close.

“We are the greatest nation on the earth. We are the greatest nation in the history of the world, and we owe it to ourselves and to the world to keep it that way.”

Asked why he’s favoring Pentagon spending over health care, Cooper says federal entitlements are growing so fast that if they’re not trimmed back there won’t be any money left for defense.

Congressman Cooper is a member of the House Armed Services committee. While he doesn’t represent areas around Fort Campbell or Arnold Engineering and Design Center, he says he doesn’t believe the installations will be disproportionately hit by Defense Department cuts.

Cooper Continues Plea to Preserve District

Cooper is still clueless to how the Republican state legislature will redraw boundaries of his 5th District seat in Nashville. The long-serving Democrat says it’s important to maintain one district in the capital city.

“To suddenly have a bunch of suburban districts with little tails going into Nashville, that would erode, possibly silence Nashville’s voice. That is a very worrisome prospect. I do not know what the legislature is deciding. That is entirely up to them. They have all the power in this.”

Even if he wanted to challenge the redistricting maps, Cooper says he doesn’t see a way. Tennessee isn’t one of the states required to have plans reviewed because of past voter discrimination.

Other Democratic strongholds like Toledo have been carved up by Republican legislatures this year, in spite of mayors trying to keep their urban areas in tact. A decade ago, Austin was splintered into multiple districts. Congressman Cooper says that has done “long term damage” to the Texas city.

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