Steve Cohen seems to have his priorities in order. The still-unresolved fiscal-cliff crisis caused him to rush back to Washington on Sunday — forgoing both Monday’s Liberty Bowl and, most likely, his scheduled role as featured speaker-role at City Councilman Myron Lowery’s annual New Year’s Day breakfast.
But the 9th District congressman appeared stoical about it all, intermittently even jaunty, as he talked to reporters at Memphis International Airport, saying, “I’m a member of the United States Congress, and I’m looking forward to saving some of my constituents from deep cuts that would hurt them and tax increases that would hurt them as well. I would rather spend New Year’s Eve in Memphis, but I’m glad to be representing Memphis.”
Cohen said that Memphis, as a metropolitan area with one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, is “deeply, deeply, deeply dependent” on federal programs that will be harmed if no deal is reached between Democrats and Republicans and a “sequestration” agreement, via an earlier debt-ceiling compromise, should go into effect automatically by default.
The congressman blamed the current congressional “dysfunction” on Republican members elected in 2010: “They don’t want to work with anybody. They want to shut down the government, starve programs, and cut the programs that help the people who have suffered the most from the recession.”
Expressing respect for former Democratic national chairman Howard Dean, Cohen nevertheless disagreed with comments made by Dean Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” to the effect that a rumored deal in the making would increase the deficit and do more harm than good.
“I’m more in line with [columnist] Paul Krugman, and I think we need to get the economy moving and create jobs. That’s our first concern and not so much the deficit,” said the congressman, who allowed himself to wax a bit wistful as he closed out his remarks to the reporters.
“It’ll be a strange way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, right there on the edge of the fiscal cliff with a glass of water,” Cohen said.