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. Jay T.

    Nice work. Principle over party, country over party. Keep crying Repubs.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  2. Paul S.

    I wonder if any of the people commenting on this story know what it's like to have not seen a doctor in six years because you can't afford it. I wonder if any of them know what it's like to suffer through things like the flu, severe ligament injuries or cancer without proper medical treatment because you cannot afford it, and because federal law only requires hospitals to provide the minimum of care if you're not insured.

    Do I think that this bill could have done more? Absolutely. I think that the malpractice issue should have been dealt with a lot more severely – remove punitive damages from malpractice coverage altogether. That would be one of the single biggest factors to lowering health care costs. I also think that the idea of forcing everyone to pay for insurance – with subsidies that are poorly defined – is a very bad idea. The poor may very well suffer more as a result.

    But, for this particular story, for this representative, he does deserve praise for standing up for what he feels his constituents are truly looking for, and what they feel they need. That is the job of every politician out there – to represent his constituents. For that and that alone, Representative Cao deserves a lot of respect, even if you disagree with his vote. Both Democrats and Republicans could learn a lot from the example he sets out with this particular vote.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  3. kschluter

    At least someone in the Republican Party has the courage to stand up against big healthcare, and BIG MONEY.
    It is very sad for me to see the many good average Americans are buying into the lies, and mis-information being spread buy FOX, and the right wing talk show hosts....
    Take a guess who's paying your local Republican representative....!
    And who do you think is paying Rush.....
    It's not Santa Claus!

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  4. nat, NYC

    For poor we have Medicaid. It is not necessary to vote for $1 billion bill in case to insure poor. Cao is a trader.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  5. Sarah

    Thanks Mr. Cao.

    The Democrats will welcome you with open arms when the
    republicans kick you out next week.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. Neal in Atlanta

    The violation is just starting. That was just a sloppy wet kiss. The rape will commence if / when the Senate approves its version. After OBAMACARE is passed and everyone is under the heavy thumb of the government and dependent on the government for their healcare needs, the DemoNazis will go after our guns (especially after the latest shootings in Ft. Hood, TX and Orlando, FL) and we will then be truely defenseless. Our only hope is the elections in 2010 when we can get a few seats back in the House an Senate and take away that super majority. Then maybe in 2012 we can get a good conservative in the white house and start undoing the damage done by all these bleeding heart liberal democrats.

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

    To Henry Miller the so called Libertarian:

    What are you really upset with? It certainly cannot be the money factor here? The Republicans spent almost $680 billion dollars (much of it cannot be located) in Iraq? Does that bother you any? Giving that kind of money to Iraqis is OK but taking care of fellow Americans is not? Giving $780 billion dollars to banks and investment (which will never be paid back) firms that nearly destroyed this country financially is OK, but making sure some American children have health insurance is not? How does that work in your brain? I am an American I have lived in this country all my life and I will never, ever understand the hypocrisy that exists in this country, corporate welfare is OK, but making sure a child and the poor have access to proper medical care is not? Go Figure.

    November 8, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Fitz in Texas

    Hope you have a back-up job Congressman Cao because you just signed your pink slip.

    November 8, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Tanya

    This whole thing is one huge joke!!! It just proves that elected officials are not in office for the people. I wonder what promises and bribes went back and forth for this to happen. The American people never had a chance. We don't have enough money to bribe our own repersentives. If we did they may actually care about us. The "government machine" doesnt care what happens to the every day joes out here, as long as we continue going to work and paying taxes so that they can have their limos, fancy dinners, nice vacations, and pay offs!!!

    November 8, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Jason in Louisiana

    Look does it really matter how it is funded, whether or not we spend that money in health care or on some other pork project. I am a firm believer that health care should be a right and not a privilege. I don't mind paying a couple extra dollars in taxes each payday to ensure everyone has healthcare. I don't believe that our seniors should have to suffer either, as a Nurse I know how important Medicaid and Medicare is, and it should be left alone!

    November 8, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. Al

    Cao did what a lot of Republicans do, he made a calculated vote looking to win in doing that, he knew the people of his district were going to want this bill, and he had no chance in the world of winning against a Democratic opponent if he voted against it.

    As it is, he likely still won't win...the Dems will want to get that seat back, and Republicans won't really throw any support his way thanks to this vote. At least he's giving himself a chance.

    November 8, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. bj

    A man spoke with the Lord about heaven and hell. The Lord said to the man, "Come, I will show you hell." They entered a room where a group of people sat around a huge pot
    of stew. Everyone was famished, desperate and starving. Each held a spoon that reached the pot, but each spoon had a handle so much longer than their own arm that it could not be used to get the stew into their own mouths. The suffering was terrible.

    "Come, now I will show you heaven," the Lord said after a while. They entered another room, identical to the first – the pot of stew, the group of people, the same long-handled
    spoons. But there everyone was happy and well-nourished. "I don't understand," said the man. "Why are they happy here when they were miserable in the other room and
    everything was the same?"

    The Lord smiled, "Ah, it is simple," he said. "here they have learned to feed each other."

    November 8, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. Ken in NC

    So many of you talking about how the vote of Congressman Cao being his death sentence as far as re-election is concerned. You people do not realize it but he voted for the people that sent him there to represent them. If he did that last night then neither you, Rep. Cantor, Rush Limprick or anyone else will be able to vote this man out of office. As long as his people feel they have a person representing them fairly in congress they will continue to send him back. Frankly, I wish there were 536 more Representatives and Senators like him. It appears that here is a man that is willing to work for the people and not follow blindly like some Lap Dog along behind a leader just because the leader says do it. Now I'm sure that scares Republicans to see one among them with a brain and the will to do for his people first. Republicans do not like individual thinkers. They consider it dangerous when more than one of them has half a brain. Problem is that while there are many with half a brain, there is little or no brain activity being shown by them. While I may not find myself in agreement with him in every case, I suspect I will be able to say he did what he thought was best for his people or he at least listened to them. Again, many Republicans will try to destroy this man because he has a brain but it precisely because of that they will fail. This man has the makings of a good Representative.

    November 8, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. dinesh bajaj

    Mr. Cao, you make me proud. Elected officials need to vote based on the needs of people and not the edicts of the party. You are my hero. God bless you.

    November 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Armand

    Here we have another loss of freedom in this country and some of these comments are an example of uneducated, ill-informed people being lead like sheep, who will continue to follow their handler into the fields of economic destruction for this country.
    Wake up you Democrat followers, stop looking for the government to solve your own failures to get what you want.
    Learn your American & World History as to why this country became the most powerful and free country in the world which is why you’re here and able to speak your views today.

    November 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. Realistic from Louisiana

    I find it fascinating that there are two distinct trains of thought on this discussion. Those who are congratulating Cao and hoping for the best. And the rest. It is a shame the rest are still playing the same games that have gotten them nowhere (i.e. no one is listening to the people, we will all be unemployed, the end is coming, etc.). Seriously people, you are on not Educate yourselves. Read for yourselves. It does not take a genius to figure out that people HAVE indeed spoke and we would like to do our part and help take care of each other for a change! And let me be petty for a moment to B. Petty... the word is "dumb" not "dump". Guess where you might fall in?

    November 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  17. steel

    kudos to Cao. sadly, expanding Medicare to cover everyone was not an option. that program with better control and higher reimbursement works just fine for 8 million federal workers and the elderly.
    be that as it may, finally, nearly all Americans will have health care.

    the teabagger nutjobs will need it now that they are (like the repukes) on life support..

    November 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  18. David

    So all those of you who are applauding Cao. I am glad he did what he believed was right, but with that said this is something he should believe in. This bill will bankrupt America. It is a nasty bill, be ready for higher taxes everyone with this bill. And even then, I don't think we can finance it. Have any of you actually read the bill? This bill is ugly. Some of the people who talk about the bullying republicans or the teabaggers the way you are. First off, about the bullying, are you blind to what the things the other party is doing? They don't give a crap about bipartisanship. Also, about the teabaggers as someone put it, it is not our fault that we are tired of more and more taxes and that almost all representatives don't listen to its people. Cao if you pay attention to what he said, its obvious this bill as one person said benefits the poor and will hurt the middle class and up. This whole salary separation thing, I think is dumb. A salary of 350,000 differs from state to state. In some states that is a lot, but in some that is not. Should do what my mom calls buying power. Cost of living is different for every state, so the same salary from state to state is different. I am all for more people getting healthcare, but this is not way to go. The way to go is this open up more jobs and make it so every business, whether small, big, or family owned can provide healthcare benefits to their employees. Malpractice lawsuit reform is another thing that needs to be fixed.

    November 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. Dan, CA

    This passed because people believe it is possible to get someone else to pay for what they want. These people want health care and want someone else to pay for it. Well there aren't enough people to pay for the kind of government that most people want. It will get worse now. We will destroy ourselves.

    November 8, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. Richie

    How sorrowful it is that only one of the Old White Men party (notice, neither old nor white) cares more for the people of this country than his party. But, we need single-payer. That is the only thing that will work. We will get there one way or the other. Probably by nationalization of the "too big to fail" health insurance companies after they go broke.

    November 8, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. Abe

    Bravo Mr. Cao for voting for the health care reform that so important achievement for our country. I think you are true to your constituents and voted for needs and not how your party wanted you to vote. It takes guts and I admire your courage and showed them human needs are more important than political survival. We all live after our political careers are over but at least we will be remembered for the good deeds. I know you will be chastised by your party and radio commentators we do not want to mention names. You stand tall and show them you are a human being first and a politician second. God bless you.

    November 8, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. Angry in S. Texas

    For you trolls out there, how dare you call Rep. Cao's constituents "jobless lazy poor people". I am sick and tired of you so-called "patriots" lambasting everything the democrats have been trying to do for the betterment of our country because of your self-absorbed idiocy, i.e. calling any type of reform socialism. Where were you when GW and his group were eviscerating the Constitution with their illegal wiretaps? Where was your outrage when John Ashcroft said "I feel the best way to ensure Americans' freedom is to tighten restrictions on that freedom in any way possible. Only through wiretaps, illegal searches and seizures, unfettered government intrusion, a controlled media and a complete crackdown on free speech can we ensure the liberties of all people."

    November 8, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. Frances, Louisiana

    Good job. If anyone knows that the Katrina survivors need health care,
    its Mr. Cao.

    November 8, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. IndiePA

    When Mr. Cao and Ms Pelosi and their fellow socialists have completed their goals and, years from now, our children and grandchildren are paying the price, I wonder if those who now support these people will crow as loudly. It is a sad day for the United States of America, but it is only the beginning.

    Yes, the healthcare industry needs reform, but putting this important service in the hands of the government is NOT the answer. It will now have another "service" (like Social Security) from which to siphon off funds for their pet projects. Then, what?

    The members of Congress are NOT listening to the taxpaying American citizens who elected them. Remember this on election day!

    November 8, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. German,Irish American

    Welcome to Chicago pay to play mafia politics brought to the national level. We are now seeing Obama's close ties to self proclaimed global socialist George Soros played out to the future destruction of the US economy.

    November 8, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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