Jim Cooper Braces for Gerrymandering

Congressman Jim Cooper was one of only five House Democrats to vote for the Republican Cut, Cap and Balance budget amendment last week, and he has a bill to try to keep himself from being gerrymandered out of office.

Cooper is a veteran of Tennessee politics, one of the last influential elected Democrats in the state after a round of retirements last election. He is also the last Blue Dog. Cooper once represented the 4th District and now represents the 5th District, in Nashville. He is feeling the heat as the Tennessee U.S. House delegation shifted from 5-4 Democrat to 7-2 Republican in the last election. But more worrying for him is total Republican control of the state Legislature. A committee of Republicans is currently redrawing congressional districts and it is no secret that the committee is looking for extra Republicans to put into Cooper’s district.

Cooper says he has a bill to inject “transparency” into the redistricting effort so that voters will know in advance what changes have been made before it is made final. (Translation: Put some light on the process and maybe I can prevent them screwing me so badly.) Given Republican control at the state capitol and the U.S. House, Cooper’s bill isn’t likely to get much traction.

Cooper may have voted for Cut, Cap and Balance because he expects a Tea Party assault in the next election. Cooper has always been a fiscal hawk; it will be hard to paint him as a big spender. He first came to national attention with a bipartisan health care reform plan in 1992 with no employer mandate. He offered it as an alternative to an elaborate Clinton administration health care plan crafted by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. He teaches health care policy to graduate students at Vanderbilt University.

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