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VOL. 133 | NO. 65 | Friday, March 30, 2018

Cohen Says He Fears Consequences of Increased Defense Spending

By Bill Dries

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis almost voted for the Republican omnibus appropriations bill that recently passed Congress, averting a government shutdown.

But Cohen said this week he ultimately couldn’t do it because of the increase in defense spending that he fears makes President Donald Trump more likely to go to war, especially with Trump’s replacement of national security advisor H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, who is to take office next month.

Steve Cohen

“I thought about supporting it. It gives Memphis a lot of help from the federal government,” Cohen told the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, March 27. “I think there’s too much money in defense already. … I’m fearful that when you give that kind of defense spending to a president who is that enamored with the military … that he would use that to go to war.”

Cohen also said Republicans pushing the bill through failed to give the three days’ notice they promised for review of the 2,200-page bill.

“That’s not the way government business should be done. Part of the hurry was that we had a Friday night date that the government might shut down,” he told the crowd of 140 at Clayborn Temple. “We could have gone 24 hours extra if needed. But the real reason I think they rushed it through is they didn’t want to be around when the kids came marching in Washington.”

Cohen was referring to the March For Our Lives protest against gun violence that drew a large crowd to the Capitol last weekend.

Meanwhile, Cohen doubts Congress will pass a transportation and infrastructure bill but said he favors the 25-cents-per-gallon increase in the federal gas tax to fund such a bill.

“I support the president’s proposal,” said Cohen, who has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress and has called for Trump’s impeachment. “A couple of people told me not to mention him. I try to put country ahead of party.”

But Cohen remains a critic and is currently rounding up support for a measure that attempts to block Trump from firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. It calls for a review by a panel of federal judges for any move to fire Mueller without cause.

Cohen said his measure has 166 sponsors.

“We’re still short. … We need some Republicans,” he said. “I don’t know why Republicans wouldn’t want to get on it. This gives due process.”

In private conversations with a retiring Republican House member whom Cohen didn’t name, Cohen said the lawmaker told him he favors the measure but won’t sponsor or vote for it because he fears his staffers in Washington would be “blackballed” after he leaves. Cohen said another House Republican said he feared favoring such a measure would draw a challenge from Trump supporters in the August midterm congressional primaries.

“There are a lot of Republicans that agree that there is a problem with this president,” Cohen said.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0