November 8th, 2009
11:44 AM ET
10 years ago

Cao says he put his district's needs over his party's wishes

Washington (CNN) - Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao said Sunday he put the needs of his district over the desire of his party in being the lone House Republican to vote for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Related: Lone GOP vote came after call from Obama

Cao's "yes" vote ended up being unnecessary for House Democrats in the 220-215 tally, but as the only GOP member to support the bill, he gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi license to tout bipartisan support for the controversial measure.

"I felt last night's decision was the proper decision for my district even though it was not the popular decision for my party," Cao, a first-term representative from Louisiana's traditionally Democratic 2nd District, told CNN.

"A lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor," Cao said. "It was the right decision for the people of my district."

The first Vietnamese-American to serve in the House, Cao defeated nine-term Democratic incumbent William Jefferson in last year's election. Jefferson was under indictment on money laundering and bribery charges at the time, and has since been convicted.

Cao, a devout Catholic, said Sunday that an amendment to strengthen anti-abortion language in the House bill cleared the way for his support.

"When that was worked out … I called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill," said Cao, adding he discussed getting continued help for his district as it seeks to fully recover from the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

Asked about the reaction of fellow Republicans to his vote, Cao said the party's leaders "respect my decision, and I respect theirs."

"To tell you the truth, neither one of us really knows what is the right decision," he said of the complex health care bill, citing differing reports and differing studies on its impact. "Ultimately, we have to make that leap of faith."

The bill's approval by the House late Saturday night marked a major step for Obama's top domestic priority. If the Senate now passes its own version, the two bills would be merged, and the final version would require approval from each chamber before being sent to the president for his signature.

Filed under: GOP • Health care • House • Louisiana • Popular Posts
soundoff (299 Responses)

    The thing is they voted for all those voices and victims of insurance that are silent. Insurance has made more millionaires than anything ever. Those who can not speak up those who do not have money for representation were represented last night. This vote was for America. For children. I am for this vote and the truth is more people agree with this than do not- it is just that it is the people that are not able to speak out.

    November 8, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. sandy

    Finally, a Republican doing the wish of his people! How refreshing. Mr Cao I will campaign for you next time. Hear, hear!

    November 8, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian


    Henry Miller. We know how you feel Cao and the rest of the supporters of health care reform are picking the pockets of others. Now tell us something about yourself so the supporters can determine how you are picking the pockets of others. The fact is that suporters of health care reform are making a statement about how they want tax dollars spent. They believe health care comes before a whole lot of items on the list some of which maybe even Henery Miller believes in. So Henry tell us what you have on your list so we will understand you better.

    As a Libertarian, I feel strongly that the least government is the best. I don't think the debate should be so much about how tax dollars are spent, but how few can be spent.

    As far as I'm concerned, the Federal government doesn't have, and should not have, the Constitutional authority to spend any money on health care–that's a State, or, better, local, issue. As far as I'm concerned, the role of the Federal government ought to be limited to exactly that given it in the Constitution, mostly securing the country by military and diplomatic means against foreign aggression, and mediating between the sovereign states.

    What's right for one state or one city might or might not be right for any other state or city–one size definitely doesn't fit all. One tenet of Libertarianism is an acknowledgement of that fact. If in one environment, a large city, for example, the bulk of the population wants to commit to supporting each other's medical expenses, fine. But that no way implies that the people of dissimilar environments should be compelled to do the same.

    Personally, most of what I want out of my local environment is that they keep a modicum of order in the streets and keep the streets themselves in decent repair.

    November 8, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. usualone

    Brave man - thinking about his people, not just his party. Wouldn't it be wonderful if his thinking were contagious. Shall he have a long, prosperous career in the House. Hoping his coffers are full. A thinking the Republican Party. Hoping he is not attacted too furiously, unless it backfires on the naysayers.

    November 8, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. sam

    I am saddened by the opposition of the GOP and those conservatives to the health care bill. Maybe they are receiving very free health care benefits for tax payers so they do not care. One way for Congress to work on health care bill is to strip the health care benefits for all employees who work for both House and Senate from Senator , Representative down to the janitor. When Congress does not have health benefits, they will feel how painful as an ordinary citizen to get health care. Of course, the Senators, Reprensentaives are rich then they sure can afford private insurance for themself. But their ordinary low pay employees who work in Congress cannot afford. These employee will sure give a very good feed back.

    November 8, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. GI Joe

    The Catholics were HEAVILY involved in this battle. Not just the people, but the churches.

    I think if they are entering the political arena they should lose their tax exempt status, and I intend to let ALL my representatives and my President know.

    November 8, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. American

    To Ignorance Is Bliss:

    You live up to your name. The Dems took control of Congress in January 2007–the Repubs controlled it for the majority of Bush's 2 terms.

    The American people will not pick up emergency room or bankruptcy costs under this bill. People will PAY for premiums under the Public Option–they will have that choice. This will LOWER helathcare costs for everyone by providing competition. It's called the Free Market, remember?

    As far as govt. vouchers for the poor, this will be paid for in part by taking away the huge tax cuts that Bush gave to the wealthiest Americans, cuts that did nothing to help the economy (trickle-down economics–yeah, right!). Middle-class Americans will not be taxed, but those on the right keep perpetuating that myth.

    When the majority of Americans have helathcare, it will help the economy by lowering costs through lower premiums and preventive healthcare, which will save billions in the long run. No brainer.

    November 8, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. American


    My previous post was directed to Pete.

    November 8, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Cougar

    Rep. Cao–a man of honor and principle.

    November 8, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. Scott Smith

    If you support the military, you are supporting the government of the United States. If you use and benefit from the US Post Office, public schools, paved roads, policemen, and firemen, you are supporting the government of the United States. No, the government of the United States is not perfect, but it sure is much cheaper to send a mail through the US Post Office than Fedex or UPS. If you truly believe that private for-profit corporations that are motivated primarily by greed can provide a social good that does not aggregrate to people that have money, I would like a real-life example. No, the government of the United States is not able to solve all of our problems, but it can help. Be a true Christian and put your faith in helping others than worrying about yourself all the time and you will be just fine. 🙂

    November 8, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. Pat F

    Ciao, chump! Start house-hunting – you are OUTTA THERE in 2010!

    November 8, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Clark

    it is interesting that a man that knows full well the devastating effects of communism .... which continues today to persecute Christians throughout Vietnam to name only one example of its evil ... was willing to vote for socialism to provide insurance for his constituents ... as if socialism is the only answer to the problem.

    November 8, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. trigger

    Oh, is that what history means by a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY!!! Thank you , Rep. Cao for the reminder! Your integrity is inspiring! You must be NEW to Washington!

    Take notes, REPUBLICANS!

    November 8, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  14. Chuck

    Unlike Mr. Cao, my congresman from my Florida district, namely, Alan Boyd voted against this bill. Boyd, a "blue dog" Democrat, claims that he voted the best interests of his constituents. BULLCACA! Boyd voted the interests of the insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates who TRIPLED their contributions to Congressman Boyd during the last three months. NOW WE KNOW WHO INFLUENCED CONGRESSMAN BOYD IN HIS VOTE AGAINST THE HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL. Bye, bye Boyd....this will be your last term in office.

    November 8, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. Independent_me

    Mr. Cao –
    you stood up for the cause of Christ. God bless you! This is what Christianity is all about – to care for the sick, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked!

    God bless you for standing up for the cause of the oppressed.

    November 8, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. helene

    HOORAY to every person who voted for health care to pass, especially to Cao! We need more brave representatives (on both sides) that are willing to cross party ideology if it benefits Americans. If socialized health care is good enough for CONGRESS, our military and our elderly, it's good enough for me.

    November 8, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. Clark

    to Scott Smith and others and are misrepresenting Christian beliefs ... read what God says in Romans and especially Corinthians 13 ... it is the private Christian that is to help his brothers/sisters and neighbors ... and governments responsibility is specifically outlined as protections of its citizens and enforcing the laws of the land.

    no where does God teach that He is glorified when the government forces people to be "charitable".

    November 8, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. James Harper

    With 39 defections, Republicans can more credibly claim "bipartisan opposition" than Stretch Pelosi can claim "bipartisan support."

    About 39 times more credibly, if my math is right.

    Yet the CNN idiot who wrote this "news" piece never mentions this.

    And a generous sampling of their opinions shows the majority of the posters are fine with it.

    I would like to propose a vote on THIS bill:

    All American CITIZENS can vote, in person and with ID, for or against PelosiCare. This includes our legislators.

    If they vote for it, they get a PelosiCard. People with PelosiCards (we could call them PelosiTards as a group) HAVE to get all medical care administered under the rules in Pelosi's bill. They cannot go outside the system. And THEY must pay for it, exclusively – all income-generating provisions in the bill should be modified to include this clause:

    "Said tax/fine/revenue to be collected only from those who hold PelosiCards."

    And they could NEVER opt out. Till death do them part. Make it a coffin. I would bear it myself

    November 8, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Anonymous

    OK, here's the thing, democrats and liberals. All of us have the same picture of an ideal America. We (realistic opponents to this nonsense) wish it were possible to ensure among other things that everyone has access to health care, food, and shelter; America returns to being a world leader in K-12 education; a police presence could be seen in every neighborhood to protect our children and property, and seniors that proudly supported Medicare for the generations of seniors before them now could assume that this program would be available for their own health care needs.

    Unfortunately, we are in record debt, increasing at a record pace, and all of these valid programs require funding. This new bill's vastness and vagueness are so complex that the astronomical cost to the taxpayers can't even be estimated.

    Haven't you heard? We are already BROKE (as in penniless). So now we are back to wishing that all of these very important things were possible. Becoming more BROKE (penniless) will only make us more BROKEN (crumbling) and vulnerable in a very dangerous world. And, I, for one, do not believe that cutting Medicare, law enforcement, and our children's education to fund an unprecedentedly expensive, experimental, and controversial new program is the answer. Children and seniors are the truly innocent Americans, and as their programs are cut you are creating a new one that far, far exceeds the cuts they are scrambling to accomodate.

    The irony is you are proudly announcing that you are the heroes fighting us villains on behalf of the innocent and needy. Well, I suppose many of us are innocent and needy in some sense, but seniors and children definitely qualify. Congratuations on your popularity with those that aren't wise enough to realize this can't work. Enjoy it, because since this can't work, it won't last. There simply is not any way for a debt loaded nation to fund it. Eventually, you and your naive and idealistic supporters will realize that even after we stole from our children and grandparents, this program still didn't have enough funding to be successful or effective.

    November 8, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Cao obviously doesn't take his orders from the "3" headed serpent; Rush, Hannity and Limbaugh. Smart Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the destruction of the serpent before they are eaten alive.

    November 8, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. Grundoon

    To CG:

    This hard working, middle class American is tired of getting raped by my insurance company. I found at my benefits meeting this year that my medical expenses are going going to almost triple due to the increase in premium and OV/Rx copays. My better half's plan is even worse! So it's either lessen the care for my special needs child (not going to happen) or figure out a way to pull $5,000 out of my behind. I'd be happy to give the government part of the $7,500 I am now going to have to pay annually if it mean everyone's family will have access to health care. Then, since my employer says they pay double my premium, they will pass their savings on to me. Sure, that could happen.

    Stop participating in the Faux News mass delirium spectacle with the desperately in need of HRT Glen Beck at its helm and do some real research and you'll find out that there is no credible evidence that what you believe is remotely true. But you can just keep drinking the kool-aid and the rest of us will progress.

    November 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. MillsJ

    What a surprise, you'll post an article about the one Republican who voted for but not one about the 30+ libs who didn't vote for it. Anything to promote your fawning Obama ways.

    November 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. Cougar


    The Post Office, public roads, public libraries, public schools, the fire and police depts, medicare, social security–all of these things are provided by the govt. of the United States. If you enjoy any of them and benefit from them, does that make you a socialist? If you answer yes, then voluntarily give them up and start walking your talk.

    November 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. billy123

    Now why can't the rest of the House take the same stance!

    The GOP is a party of "NO NO NO NO NO NO"

    November 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  25. katiec

    Thank you Congressman Cao.
    He is the only republican that put the needs, desires of the people over party. He will go down in history as the only republican that
    cared and did what he was elected to do.

    November 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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