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. J Woods

    I guess I can go to the Doc free now huh ? This news is great , now I suppose my sister can get her cancer treatments free without having to go bankrupt. And hospitals can spruce up the landscaping once again .
    Just as I thought, this does nothing for working class people . Only draws more money in for insurance companies and more money for the health care industry, which should melt down like the banks.

    Is congress signing up for the new plan ?

    Didn't think so.....

    November 8, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. What is going on?

    Dems need to enjoy this brief success or failure (depends on how you look at it), because this bill is going to die in the Sentate.

    November 8, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. Ignorance IS bliss.

    Wow. No wonder why the American people vote the way they do:

    "They haven't yet realized that in free market capitalism small businesses get crushed."
    >Absurd. Big businesses have weaknesses - particularly as their reach gets larger and larger. Small businesses are thriving in this country.

    "When the uninsured go to the emergency room, who pays for their care? "
    > That will be the same people that will pay under the healthcare bill.

    "When people can't pay their bills because they are under-insured and file for bankruptcy, who picks up the tab"
    > If they can't pay for insurance now, they are going to afford it when the government forces them to?

    "want to complain about govt. spending and deficits, direct your outrage at the former administration"
    Actually, that was a democratic congress - and this current administration along with the current congress made their spending look like lunch money. Want to see spending stop, set congress republican and the president democrat (i.e. Clinton).

    If this bill uses medicaid as a standard, get ready people. You are about to have LESS doctors, LESS choice - and MORE expensive healthcare. Ask anyone who runs a healthcare facility if they could survive on medicare alone.

    November 8, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. andrew s. rostolder

    kudos to you sir. it is rare for a politician to put the peoples needs over his objective to be re-elected.... you are a true rep. of the people.........thankyou

    November 8, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. Jeremiah

    10.2% unemployment rate, highest since 1983, and the focus is on healthcare? Are you kidding me? Oh wait, the stimulus that Bush and Obama pushed FAILED, so quick, change the focus off the economy. This healthcare bill is a JOKE. Just more debt for the country, and more control for the worthless idiots in D.C. Whoever voted for this garbage legislation should be voted out of office. It's expensive, we can't pay for it, and it's not going to be effective. Instead of trying to find another way to fix this, Obama the "amazing" just shoved what he wants down our throats like he is some sort of God. Are you kidding me? Who says this guy's ideas are so great that they outweigh any other option? This guy is a self indulgent snob who should just get voted out of office. We send our worthless presidents down to Texas, he should join the Bush family down there.

    November 8, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    he might be the only republican that gets voted back in next time he runs for office..

    wow one republican had the balls to stand up against the war and threat machine . that is so cool ..he becomes a national hero ..

    gary davis
    harbor oregon
    proud to be an american that wants change 🙂

    November 8, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. jerseygeoff

    Let's not castigate all Dems who voted against it- this is a complicated and inefficient bill that circles around problems . Eric Massa of NY voted against it- because he has guts and supports hr 676 single payer ( medicare for all) legislation.)
    Many of us reform advocates were sorely torn- not a good bill versus getting something tangible done. My only hope is that the Senate led by Bernie Sanders shows some courage. Don't count on Evan Bayh- his wife is a director for private insurer Wellpoint . She makes over 3 times Bayh's senate salary. WE THE PEOPLE. indeed....

    November 8, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Read Your History

    To all those right-wingers calling Dems "Nazis"–

    Let me remind you that the leaders of Nazi Germany embraced the merging of the govt. and the military with corporate interests. They supported the suppression of women, wanting them to stay in "traditional roles." They also demonized homosexuals and considered non-Christians and people of color inferior.

    Hmmm....this sure sounds like a particular party here in the US, and it isn't the Democrats.

    November 8, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. Fed up with the Feds

    The 2010 election is looming and we will see the American people speak loud and clear.As they did in Maine.When the people fear the government that is tyranny ,when the government fears the people that is liberty.Whoa.....tough words spoken by our founding fathers!!!Truth shall set you free!! The American people are being educated and they will not stand for this kind of takeover of our Republic.God Bless America. As it says over the speaker of the house's podium-as the politicians lie-IN GOD WE TRUST!!Oh and you libbies that work so hard to get GOD taken off of everything,you will need a marble grinder to get that one off and the hundreds of quotation of the bible all over D.C off. It aint going to happen.As Jefferson said-in his monument -"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever." We patriots agree with him.

    November 8, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. Chad

    Mr. Cao,

    Well said! Wow, a republican who could see past party lines.

    @ Reps that keep posting the "sky is falling, the country will fail" in regards to the effects of the healthcare bill. There is no way you can possibly know any of your negative statments will come to fruition. You are guessing based on your political beleifs. If you truly know that the health care bill will end our economy, can you also let me know where to buy my next lotto ticket because you are psychic.

    November 8, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. Ryan


    Pro means you're actively going to seek out and kill fetuses. That's preposterous.

    PRO-CHOICE – is you actively want to let a woman decide who will or won't be paying rent in her own womb because it's HER body. Men shouldn't even be allowed to vote on the decision – it's a woman's issue and it's up for women to decide. If Men were able to be pregnant you can bet the farm they'd start passing pro-choice laws like they were going out of style.

    November 8, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. Tim, Seattle

    @ neal in Atlants
    :You may shove this bill down our throats in 2009 but when the elections of 2010 and 2012 come around you may get a boot shoved up another orafice and find yourselvs out of a job. What a glorious day that will be.

    But your party still doesnt have a plan. Distract with rhetoric and obstruct while having no solutions. Its the GOP way.

    You actually have to have a plan:

    – The economy (more tax cuts for corporations and more de-regulation, and unfettred outsourcing of American Manufacturing and IT jobs. ),
    -Healthcare (the GOP plan is keeping the money funnelled to health insurance companies while lowering costs for business, not you and me, and of course doing nothing about covering more of the uninsured).
    – And of course there is energy (drill baby drill, while China and INdia corner the green energy and tech industries)

    Yep, what a plan the conservatives have. Neil, your fantasies of revenge are hollow without a plan people are willing to vote for.
    Bitterness only gets yopu so far.

    Meanwhile, healthcare reform is on the way and the economy will continue to recover in 2010. Funny how the GOP will be hoping that the economy doesnt revover in 2010, putting them further out of touch with the American people (as if 17% approval for the GOP wasnt low enough.

    Obama is in for the long haul, if he plays it right, the GOP teat-bagging birthers will burn themselves out. And what a glorious day THAT will be.

    November 8, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. ib

    Cao just voted to destroy this country by causing it to fail due to uncontrolled spending and he said he voted for the people in his district. What are the people going to do when this country falls over not being able to pay it debts??? Any excuse is find for liberal spending with money we don't have.

    November 8, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. B Lewis

    It is so refreshing an elected official will make his/her decision on what is best for the country rather than his party. I respect him for his decision to vote differently than his party. We need more like him.

    November 8, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. Linda

    This is a first. A congressman actually thinking about what is best for the people in his district. The GOP can spend all our money on the wars without even blinking, but God forbid that they think about the people in their districts who are sick, can not pay their health bills and are losing their homes because of this. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are being paid off by the lobbists. Thank you to my congressman for voting for this bill.

    November 8, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. Neal in Atlanta

    To the person posting on this site who doesn't have the stones to even put his name on here. It just so happens that my great grandmother was from Ireland and was an immigrant and my great grandfather was a full blooded Cherokee indian. So I know both sides of the immigraiton argument. I didn't say I was against immigration, just ILLEGAL immigration. As for calling people ignorant.....those who have to resort to calling other people names like ignorant are the ones who truely are. It doesn't take a whole lot of guts to call someone ignorant or anything else on the net. It takes more to do it to their face when you may face the consequences.

    November 8, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. Max Pargament

    It is so great to see that there is some sanity on the right side of the aisle.

    Its fine when people have different viewpoints...many times their viewpoints (generally people on the right) come from lack of education, lack of traveling, etc...which are things they cannot control.

    But when people are so stubborn that they cannot compromise, they risk the foundations of democracy itself. Good for you are a truly a great politician to put people over politics, which many of your republican counter parts cannot.

    November 8, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Marie Laveaux

    I am so proud of Joseph Cao because he had the integrity to stand up for what is right, not only for the people of his district, but for all Americans who need affordable health care today and in the future. The people of his district, in New Orleans East, ( one of the hardest hit by Katrina), are mostly Vietnamese, who are hard-working. I met Mr. Gao at a Vietnamese New Year's celebration in New Orleans East and was very impressed. I am postitive he will get re-elected next term, as well. Most of you out there don't know what you are talking about because you don't know anything about New Orleans East or the people who live there.

    November 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Nick

    Wow it is such a refreshing thing to see that a politicain is actually thinking of the people who voted him instead of sticking to party lines. I hope this small token of bi partisian ship spreads like wildfire. Your goal as a politician should not be to get re-elected but to work for the people and then re electing wil take of itself. This health care reform is still a long way from being passed, there is still a rough road ahead.

    November 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. J French

    Johnny DC wrote, "So let me get this straight – If you represent a district entirely full of jobless lazy poor people, . . ."

    Mr. Cao did not say he represented "lazy" people - that is your assumption. And, your assumption is NOT based on facts.

    Poor people usually have jobs.

    With over 10% unemployed right now, I'm pretty sure that jobless people are not necessarily lazy.

    November 8, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. Ryan

    It was the Republican party and Reagan in particular who claimed Medicare and Medicaid would bankrupt the country and kill out freedoms..... well that completely did not happen and in fact it was the opposite.... and now the GOP is pretending to be defenders of Medicare and Medicaid all of a sudden when for 35+ years they were against it???

    When have they ever opposed a bill or measure based on evidence instead of apocalyptic speculation?? Republicans seem confident in their uncanny clairvoyant abilities.

    November 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Jeremiah

    In reading the comments, it seems that people think stupid action is better then no action. Wow.......we really are a nation of unintelligent individuals. So completely changing the face of healthcare, even if dumb, is better? That makes no sense. Look at Iraq. Was stupid action there better then no action? How about the stimulus package that worked SO amazingly well. Was stupid action there better then no action? How about clunkers for cash where car dealers can't even get paid by the government. Was stupid aciton better then no action? I would think well thought out processes and considering every angle would be more intelligent. But we are a nation of stupid people. The government has run SO many programs so well that you are right, we should put healthcare in their hands. Brilliant.

    November 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. johnrj08

    To "Ignorance is Bliss":

    You are the one who is ignorant. When the uninsured need medical care, they go to the emergency room, which is THE MOST EXPENSIVE form of health care on the planet. This care is paid for via higher medical costs which are passed on to paying patients and insurance companies. If poor people have insurance, two things will happen:

    First, they will get care BEFORE their conditions become more serious and, therefore, most costly to treat.

    Second, and most important, the care they receive will NOT be in emergency rooms.

    Most of your other so-called facts are wrong, too, but this one stood out as particularly absurd. You're just an ideologue who has just enough knowledge of the situation to sound authoritative. But, at the end of the day, you're no better informed than the Tea Baggers.




    November 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  24. KC

    Mr. Cao would have my vote anyday, if he were in my area.

    YEA for one that can do what is right for his district and not worry if he gets re elected or not.

    November 8, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  25. Progressive

    At long last, a public servant who actually serves the needs of his constituents, rather than his political party. I've always believed that being a partisan politician impedes one's ability to be a good public servant, simply because you have to toe the party's ideological line. This Health Care Bill vote proves my point. Representative are playing party politics, instead of working for the people. The party that has lost the election always tries to block the ruling party from achieving anything. It's always about who is winning, and who is losing.
    We need more independant representatives in this country.

    November 8, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12