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)
  1. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Great job Cao.Now if only the wingnuts could learn to spell republican and chew gum at the same time,right Phoenix?

    November 8, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. Bill

    Well done. Oklahoma needs reps like you instead of the corporate shills we have here now. Being ranks last in the nation in health care doesn't seem to matter to the likes of Inhofe and Coburn.

    November 8, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. Pragmatic

    B. Petty (no comment) whines that an elected official who represents his district should be thrown out ... then why have representatives at all! Just let Rush and Glenn cast their vote ...

    Johnny from DC thinks every one in this district is full of lazy, unemployed poor people. Bit of a broad generalization? Johnny-boy – you are just a heart beat away from being poor and unemployed ... could be you next ...

    November 8, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. Shane

    Brian in Milwaukee says this healthcare legislation will bankrupt our country. He obviously doesn't remember how George W. Bush began bankrupting the country in 2001 with his massive tax cuts, followed in 2003 by the most expensive war in history (which accomplished nothing). Oh, how the Republicans' priorities are twisted. That they would blame the financial woes of our nation on an administration which hasn't been in office for one year is... pathetic.

    November 8, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Dave

    I appreciate Mr. Cao voting for what he believes are in the best interests of his constituents. There were also 39 democrats who voted no on this bill. They should be equally applauded.

    November 8, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. Keith Li

    Mr. Cao gave a some fresh air in politician gathering room. He voted for constituents, not for party.

    Party politics is leading US to a secondary country. I love United States, but I do not like politics. Party politics blocks almost every step which can make us stronger.

    November 8, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  7. Senior Lilarose in Oregon

    I simply do NOT understand why abortion is legal in the United States of America but it is not going to be legal to fund an abortion with federal dollars.

    What is the difference between the "United States of America" and "federal?"

    What also concerns me are the number of MEN who are on the front lines of anti-abortion rallies (often more men than women) and the number of members of congress who vote anti-abortion–mostly men.

    Ladies, don't you feel a bit controlled here? When will this end????

    November 8, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  8. how to pay

    How is this going to be funded? And don't tell me it already is; we are trillions in debt

    November 8, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. Patriot

    Brian in Milwaukee–

    What's bankrupting the country is the billions spent on an unecessary war in Iraq, and the de-regulation of banks, which caused the economic crash. In case you forgot, it was the Bush administration that was responsible for these mis-guided policies.

    Govt. spending SOARED under Bush. Why weren't you and the rest of the Repub party complaining then? Where was all of the outrage from Rush, Beck, Hannity, and the lunatic Tea-Baggers then?

    Oh, that's right–there was a Repub in the White House, so govt. spending and exploding deficits were acceptable.

    November 8, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  10. Joe

    I don't anderstand about that vote. They stay up late last night to vote on a bill that we the people don't even know what's in it. Some democrat said, when the people find out what's in it, they will surely like it. And if we don't I guess will have to learn to like it.

    November 8, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Mark

    Cao is the only decent person in the Republican party. Put's the people above his party. The Republicans need to be abolished. They have no regard for the people, only themselves and their own greed.

    November 8, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. Hirsh

    Rep Cao violated his oath to uphold the US Constitution...specifically Art 1 Sec 8 which enumerates what the Congress is allowed to do. The Tenth Amendment says ANYTHING ELSE belongs to the States and the People respectively. By his behavior he, and all the others who voted for this un-Constitutional monstrosity, should be summarily removed from their offices since they have shown wanton disregard for the the Law of the Land that they swore to uphold!

    November 8, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. John

    Congressman Cao – Congratulations for doing your job, putting the people you represent above your Party. This is how things should be done in Washington. Thanks for thinking for yourself.

    Now the downisde. I don't think the GOP is going to be very supportive of Rep. Cao in the future. I would predict that Rep. Cao will have a DEM after his name, rather than REP, in the near future.

    November 8, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. Roy Russell Jr

    Oh my God, how long has it been since we've heard any representative serious speak about what the people want in the district her/she serves , regardless of his personal political ideology? Mr. Cao's action is not only correct, but also refreshing.. Someone listening to the people?

    November 8, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. kes dallas

    Novel idea voting like your constituents want. If this was true then this bill should not have passed. What a joke. He was in it for the money.

    November 8, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. justin

    One and done, obama is out next election

    November 8, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. Ralph

    I see Brian thinks it will kill America... But i guess he thinks with no bill we won't pay for it... See, the common misconception, is that we don't pay for the uninsured right now. But we do. When a uninsured person incurs 1000's of dollars for medical treatment and can't pay, which is a majority of the uninsured, who pays? the government... which gets all of its money from you... meaning you pay for it in the end. Now if we can save money by being able to send that person to the docotrs... and we still have to pay, and its worked into the budget... who pays the lesser amount... us, and the person contributing to the bill also pays... So if saving everyone in the country money, and saving the government money, and properly budgeting the money, so maybe we won't need to borrow it, is wrong... and will kill America... then we must have no hope... because imagine if we don't save the money, and keep borrowing it, and everything else...

    So after reading that, anyone still against the cheaper alternative for paying for currently and future uninsured people? And abolishing the death grip the health insures have on us... after all there are the death panel we all fear, and they DON'T have to answer to the American public...

    November 8, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. deus_ex_machina

    Linda wrote:
    "It's very obivous that no on on the hill has heard anything the taxpaying American people have said"

    Actually, it's obvious that *you* aren't listening to what tax-paying Americans are saying, because the majority are in favor of some kind of reform. What's funny is, a couple months ago I read an article by some neo-con complaining about how much money is spent on end-of-life treatment; the gist of it was people should stop trying to stay alive longer because it costs too much money. A week or so later, a Democratic Congressman said that the Republican plan was "don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly". There was an uproar from the right, and I remember one Republican Congressman saying "Both sides recognize the need for reform, I think we all realize that something has to be done, it's just the specific implementation we disagree with, blah blah blah; to suggest that we don't support reform is just the Democrats trying to demonize us." Well, if the horns fit...

    The funny thing is, 99% of those complaining don't have the first clue what's in the bill, beyond that there's a public option, and you probably have no idea what the public option looks like. But, why do research and think for yourself when you can have your opinions pre-digested and regurgitated into your mouth?

    November 8, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. cropp

    39 Democrats voted against the bill including the Louisiana Democrat who obviously has more sense then the Republican Cao. I think 39 votes against makes it a bi partisan vote against the bill Mrs Pelosi.

    November 8, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. Scott in NY

    You have got to be kidding me, are you bashers serious?? A politician putting the needs of his people before the party demands.....THATS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSE TO BE DOING!!! It amazes me that this comes aws a shock to people, are you really that ignorant?

    Public Option: yes please. I'm a republican and seriously what are you afraid of? It works for every other civilized country! Its not about following the world but you know what..maybe the rest of the world is on to something.

    Basically it comes down to many of these republicans are on the big business payroll its hard to get anything to pass.

    Mr. Cao, you are by far a true representative of your constituents, what you did was honorable and great many props to you and the residents of NO should make him your perm representative. Too the people of NO I'll trade you a Gov. Paterson for Mr. Cao, any takers we would love to be represented like that.

    November 8, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. rja

    All us progressives need to send Cao money when he is up for re-election. Do you all agree? Let's commit to that. Move-On: support this guy.

    November 8, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. TJF

    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.

    November 8, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. Allyson Bergman

    Thank You for the courage to vote in the interest of your constituents rather than your party.

    November 8, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. Dan

    Glad to see that at least one Republican has the integrity to do what's best for the country and go against the more ignorant, beligerent and obstructionist elements of his party.

    Well done, Mr. Cao.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Ltl Lulu in FL

    Mr. Cao, you are a very BRAVE soul! Only problem is I can only imagine the backlash you will receive from your party hardliners. Which is very very sad. Since when is it wrong for a public servant (of the people and for the people) to vote for what's right for their constituents, and not what's popular for their party? Either way, THANK YOU for doing what's RIGHT for this country and the people you represent.. and going against the strongarm of your party. You are a very good Man!

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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