Cao Gives Dems Lone GOP Vote For Health Overhaul
Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La., was the only Republican to support the health reform bill, just a year after becoming a minor GOP celebrity for capturing a reliably Democratic congressional district in New Orleans, Politico reports. His defection not his first since joining the House this year has now made him "a bit of a cult hero on the left" and a sought-after media star.
However, "Republicans and Democrats who have worked closely with Cao in Louisiana and Washington say they weren't a bit surprised - even if much of the political world did a double-take - when Cao registered a green light on the scoreboard in the House chamber." He had been looking for reasons to back the legislation, his spokesman said, and after an amendment Friday restricted the use of taxpayers' dollars for abortions, the former Jesuit-in-training, who is anti-abortion, had an opening (Allen, 11/8).
"Cao had for months considered bucking the party that embraced him, while the White House wooed his vote," The Washington Post reports. "Cao arrived in Congress focused on getting more money for hospitals and other things in his district. While he generally has voted with the GOP, Cao, 42, has occasionally bucked his party, such as his backing of a Democratic-pushed resolution to condemn Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for shouting 'You lie' during Obama's speech on health care in September."
Cao won his surprise election victory last year with help from unusual circumstances. According to the Post, "Hurricane Gustav pushed back the election cycle last year, resulting in an early December contest that pitted Cao against Rep. William J. Jefferson, a nine-term incumbent who won reelection in 2006 despite widespread publicity about the FBI finding $90,000 in his freezer in 2005. With turnout much lower than in the presidential race a month earlier, Cao won in an upset" (Bacon, 11/9).
The New York Times reports that Cao explained his vote during a Sunday CNN interview."I have a constitutional duty to make the right decision for my district whether or not the decision was popular. I had to make a decision of conscience based on the needs of the people of my district. A lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor." The Times also reports that, "Another reason Mr. Cao may have felt pressure to support the health care bill is that most of his constituents are Democrats" (Herszenhorn, 11/8).