Rep. Jim Cooper, a conservative Democrat from Tennessee, told a liberal radio network on Sunday that the Obama White House encouraged him to defy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.
"Well, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I’m doing," said Cooper, one of only 11 Democrats to vote against the economic stimulus plan that passed the House last week.
"They know its a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill," he said. "Now, I got in terrible trouble with our leadership because they don’t care what’s in the bill, they just want it to pass and they want it to be unanimous."
Cooper, whose startling admission came on Liberadio, was one of about 55 House Democrats to sign a letter criticizing Pelosi for suspending debate and committee rules on the fiscal package, politico.com reported.
"They don’t mind the partisan fighting cause that's what they are used to. In fact, they're really good at it — and they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like," Cooper said during the radio interview. "If members actually had to read the bills and figure out whether they are any good or not. We’re just told how to vote. We’re treated like mushrooms most of the time."
An early supporter of President Obama, Cooper is a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats.