Cao is from Louisiana. The moment I realized he was the lone Republican vote, I was embarrassed to be from Louisiana. But then I thought of Congressman Fleming and I felt a little better. At least Cao isn't my district. Not much solace.
The bill would have passed without Cao. But now Nasty Nancy Pelosi will gloat through her Botox that this bill is "bi-partisan." I was never of the opinion that one lone dissenter makes a bill bi-partisan; I always thought it took more than that, but it doesn't matter.
Why did Cao vote yes? He'll surely offer explanations in the days ahead, but we could see it coming. This is what he said in August:
"At the end of the day if the health care reform bill does not have strong language prohibiting the use of federal funding for abortion, then the bill is really a no-go for me," said Cao, who studied to be a Jesuit priest.
"Being a Jesuit, I very much adhere to the notion of social justice," Cao said. "I do fully understand the need of providing everyone with access to health care, but to me personally, I cannot be privy to a law that will allow the potential of destroying thousands of innocent lives.
"I know that voting against the health care bill will probably be the death of my political career," Cao said, "but I have to live with myself, and I always reflect on the phrase of the New Testament, 'How does it profit a man's life to gain the world but to lose his soul.' "Cao's district has been Democratic since 1891. He won the seat in 2008, defeating William "Cold Cash" Jefferson who was then facing 16 felony indictments.
The district represents almost all of New Orleans and the demographics are 30% White, 64% Black, and a small percentage of Asian, Hispanic, and Native American.
For his part, Cao has always made it clear that he would vote to represent his constituents. In a December 2008 interview with NPR, Cao expressed some frustration with the Republican party who he says "ignored" his campaign until they saw that he might win. He says it was not until three weeks before the election that the Republican establishment finally kicked in to help him defeat Jefferson. Governor Bobby Jindal didn't offer an endorsement of Cao until three days before the election.
Then you have to consider what Cao calls the Hurricane Effect. Katrina had displaced lots of voters. The election had been delayed by Hurricane Gustav in early September. Only 66,000 voters participated in the election.
Cao explained his agenda to NPR:
Cao says his Washington agenda is simple: "To address the needs of the 2nd District, many parts of which are still decimated by Katrina." That includes, he says, fixing the health care system and restoring coastal wetland areas. Cao says he also wants to bring a more progressive voice to his own party, including one that is "less anti-immigrant."
Cao's agenda has been clear from day one, and say what you will about his lone vote, he's at least up front about what he's doing.
And his district will probably re-elect him.
But if you want to express (politely!) your views to Representative Cao, his office number is (202) 225 - 6636. In New Orleans, his number is (504) 483 - 7944. If you'd rather write a letter, his New Orleans office is
4640 So. Carrollton Ave. Suite 120
New Orleans, LA 70119
Cao will be lauded by the Democrats for making this bill "bi-partisan" and in the days to come we'll find out what Obama and Rahm promised him for his vote.
Update: Go to The Dead Pelican for a new Cao graphic and Cao's statement.
Update 2: Professor Jacobson predicts hell to pay and kicks a girl when she's down.
Update 3: Via Memeorandum, Cao's statement is here.