Today on National Progressive Talk Radio, I spent a few minutes with Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) discussing the government shut down.
Representative Cohen spared John Boehner and the GOP no kindness regarding the tough position they have put themselves and the country in by forcing the government stoppage over the Affordable Care Act.
I asked Representative Cohen if he had any “sympathy” for the challenge Speaker Boehner faces with the Tea Party Caucus.
Cohen: Not really. I do think the tail is wagging the elephant, the tail being the Tea Party. But I don’t know Speaker Boehner to be honest. He’s pleasant. He’s nice. He’s affable. We shake hands. We say “hello.”
I then asked Rep. Cohen about the irony of those who hate government collecting a government check and then trying their best to make sure that government does not work.
Cohen: Well it is an irony. It’s an inconsistency and they do want to reduce it. They’re here as terrorists and to destroy it from the inside.
Listen to the entire interview below, or read the full transcript after.
NPTR: Representative Cohen?
Representative Cohen: Yes.
NPTR: Hi, this is Dave Phillips from National Progressive Talk Radio. I know your time is really tight, So I’m glad to jump into this as fast as you want me to.
Cohen: Jump into it.
NPTR: Okay. So obviously this has been a pretty exciting couple of days, maybe not in a good way. I just wanted to know if you were comfortable so far with the President’s and your leadership’s response to the GOP demands.
Cohen: Well yes, I don’t think you ever react to demands by hostage takers. I started my career as an attorney for the police department had some experience with hostage negotiations and while you definitely don’t want to lose the hostage, you don’t want to give in. I know there are a lot of strategies; you don’t give in to certain types of demands. This is one I don’t think you can give in to.
NPTR: So are you finding that experience particularly useful in this situation?
Cohen: Well I don’t know if it’s useful, but I think we did the right thing by not responding. Harry Reid has been a tower of strength and I really commend Senator Reid for his actions.
NPTR: I know that last night Speaker Boehner went for the 11th hour conference that he asked for to try to reach a compromise, which is obviously really, really late in the game to make such an effort. Were you surprised by that?
Cohen: Not totally surprised, but it really wasn’t, it was beyond the 12th hour. We had already passed the midnight hour a Wilson Pickett would have sung about, and we had been asking for conference committee to be established, we the Democrats in the House for about 6 months and they never considered it. Now that they’ve kind of like the roadrunner running and all of the sudden realizing they were at the end of the road and about to run into a wall, they said “Oh, let’s ask for a conference committee.” Well, they wouldn’t do it with the House Democrats for 6 months; all of a sudden they are trying to find an escape. They are in a fix and Harry Houdini probably couldn’t get them out of it.
NPTR: That’s one thing I’ve been hearing too. They would almost take any little scrap of compromise to kind of get themselves out it to say they won something. Is there anything you could see compromising on in regards to the Affordable Care Act that you would be agreeable to?
Cohen: Very Little. I mean if the medical device tax maybe could be reduced a tiny amount. But I don’t know that they should get a face saving opportunity. We want the government to go on and maybe if we could reduce the medical device tax by a tenth percent, from 2.3 to 2.1 or 1.9 or something that’s within reason and come up with an offset. If they’re really concerned about the medical device tax and it costing jobs, which it could and medical device companies—several are in my district, in Memphis where they operate and because of Federal Express, they can ship quickly and it’s an important part of our economy. Yeah, I’d like to see us help those companies create jobs, but if they’re really interested and think that it’s hurting jobs then they’ll have an offset somewhere, and they’ve been big on offsets. Now they don’t care about offsets.
NPTR: They do love their offsets ordinarily. So a lot of people think that Speaker Boehner is a relatively reasonable human being who is stuck with a very unruly caucus that he can’t manage. Do you have any sympathy for him in that regard?
Cohen: Not really. I do think the tail is wagging the elephant, the tail being the Tea Party. But I don’t know Speaker Boehner to be honest. He’s pleasant. He’s nice. He’s affable. We shake hands. We say “hello.” He’s nice, pleasant. I understand he plays golf. He’s got a nice tan. I haven’t seen reason. He’s not particularly trying to reach across the aisle and trying to help Democrats or to try to help people that might need the safety net or try to do any kind of reform. So, maybe he’s done things that I haven’t seen in the past and maybe he’s got that potential, but right now he’s going to have to show a lot more.
NPTR: So one of the things with the Tea Party, do you find it ironic that those that hate government want to run government and get paid by the government, but don’t actually want to allow the government to work?
Cohen: Well it is an irony. It’s an inconsistency and they do want to reduce it. They’re here as terrorists and to destroy it from the inside. I’ve got to run at this point. I’d like to talk some more but I’ve got a call I’ve got to take. Thank you. We’ll talk some more.
NPTR: Absolutely. Thank you, Representative. Thank you.