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Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2009

THE FUTURE IS CAO.... House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Tea Party protestors this week, "I will guarantee you that we are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this bill."

That didn't quite go according to plan.

House Democrats were thrilled by the passage of their major health care legislation, but perhaps no development on Saturday tickled them more than winning the vote of a single Republican: Representative Ahn "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana.

Mr. Cao, a freshman from New Orleans, was elected last year in an upset victory over Representative William J. Jefferson, a Democrat who was under indictment on federal corruption charges at the time and has since been convicted. (Mr. Cao's name is pronounced g-OW).

"Tonight, I voted to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortion and to deliver access to affordable health care to the people of Louisiana," Mr. Cao said in a statement posted on his Web site.

"I read the versions of the House bill. I listened to the countless stories of Orleans and Jefferson Parish citizens whose health care costs are exploding -- if they are able to obtain health care at all. Louisianans needs real options for primary care, for mental health care, and for expanded health care for seniors and children."

And you know what this means: health care reform enjoyed bipartisan support in the House. If Cao ends up voting for final, post-conference passage, President Obama will no doubt take some pride in announcing that health care reform was the result of "Democratic, Republican, and Independent votes."

Rumor has it that Cao is severely unpopular in conservative circles right now, but the context of his particular predicament matters. Cao barely won his election in a district that President Obama won with 75% support. Realistically, the only reason Cao was successful was that the Democratic incumbent was under criminal indictment, was on video accepting bribes, and had cash found in his freezer when FBI agents raided his home. Running for re-election next year, after voting against President Obama's health care reform package, would have proven exceedingly difficult.

Cao's voting record makes him the single most moderate House GOP member, and yesterday, rumor has it that Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Ann DeParle both personally leaned on him to support the bill, especially after it won the backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Cao is a former Jesuit priest).

Nevertheless, Cao's vote does bring to mind a memo Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) published in December. The subject line read, "The Future is Cao," and it argued, "As House Republicans look ahead to the next two years, the Cao victory is a symbol of what can be achieved when we think big, present a positive alternative, and work aggressively to earn the trust of the American people."

I can only assume Boehner would prefer we disregard the memo from now on.

Post Script: Here's hoping Cao's vote, at a minimum, sends a signal to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). After all, if a House Republican from Louisiana can vote for health care reform, the least a Senate Democrat from Louisiana can do is let the bill have an up-or-down vote.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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On the other hand, Charlie Melancon (D, LA-03) voted no on the bill, and Melancon is the likely Dem challenger to LA's other senator David Vitter.

Imagine those debates: "I voted against health care for everybody!" "So did I!"


Posted by: folkbum on November 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

I assume this means that the WH will not actively campaign for Cao's DEM opponent next year. What's more interesting is who will run against him from the REP/Tea Party side.

Posted by: CarlP on November 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

There is a guy , have wingnut will travel , a legend in his very own , extra special , eensy beensy , teensie weensie , circle of like minded wingies . Some call him Hof , others call him late for dinner .

Posted by: FRP on November 8, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

if i were a betting person, i'd put good $$$ on the chances of cao running with a "D" next to his name in '10. he's sure to get teabagged, and a future running as a vietnamese republican in a heavily democratic, heavily african-american district can't be too promising.

Posted by: mellowjohn on November 8, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Teabaggers are afraid of going into Cao's District without white hoods and burning crosses...

Posted by: wilson46201 on November 8, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Congressman Cao actually cast a vote in the best interests of the people he represents? That's just not allowed.

Posted by: Algernon on November 8, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Minor point: Cao wasn't a Jesuit priest. He was a scholastic, which is one step on the long road to Jesuit priesthood.

Posted by: shortstop on November 8, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

So. The Obama/Emmanuel strategy of cultivating republicans has finally paid off. More importantly, its paid off when it counts.

Thank God for their political guts.

Posted by: JW on November 8, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Cao is going to be a huge target for right-wingers. They'll run a wingnut challenger (though it will be pointless in that district), probably talk about him being a foreigner with a funny name, maybe even threaten his life.

Posted by: Speed on November 8, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe one more dem. in th House? Cantor and (spray paint) Boehner will hate that! We're looking good.

Posted by: smartelephant on November 8, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

And you know what this means: health care reform enjoyed bipartisan support in the House.

this idea that democrats eviscerate bills to buy the vote of one stinking republican and then pat themselves on the back is such utter crap its beyond words. Who gives a rats ass what one, two, or any republican thinks? And NO, one or two republicans out of a whole party doesn't mean bipartisanship - would ben nelson voting with republicans on something represent bipartisanship?

What it means is that democrats are either stupid beyond belief or disingenuous in using manufactured pretend bipartisanship to NOT deliver on progressive policies - its a G-damn excuse is what it is.

Posted by: pluege on November 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's a topsy turvy world. Did I hear Boehner defending Medicare in the same speech where he decried government run health care? Yes, I think I did.

I thin the mid-terms are going to be great. The Republicans are bent on the NY-23 model and that's just great by me. But I agree, Cao needs to change parties because he will lose his primary if he stays "R".

Posted by: Mxyptlk on November 8, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The wingnuts are atwitter on twitter calling him racist names, and have been vandalizing his Wikipedia page.


"Joseph Cao has no family. He was born of Satan and lost a soul the day he voted against republicans"

Stay classy, wingnuts.

Posted by: dk on November 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I second Pleuge. Bipartisan? Give me a fucking break. If Obama tries to make that claim his stock will plummet in my eyes. That is pure, unadulterated BS.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 8, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK


Sweet. There are approximately 1.5 million Vietnamese-Americans and because of their general anti-communist stance have traditionally supported Republicans. They are heavily concentrated in Orange County California which itself is the traditional center of the Birchite California Republican Party. Although younger generations are trending Dem Vietnamese Americans in Orange County still register R over D at 55% to 22%

So R's who already put down a marker in race-baiting Sotomayor can double down by spitting in the face of the Vietmanese-American community by trashing Cao. Orange County is represented at least in part by six congressional district: 40 (Royce), 42 (Gary Miller) , 44 (Calvert), 46 (Rohrabacher), 47 (Sanchez, D+4), 48 (Campbell). The 5 R's, all of whom as far as I know are certifiable wingnuts, all enjoy R pluralities of R+6 to R+10 so it is not like D's are likely to see some wave effect JUST because of R's trashing Cao, but at least a couple of these guys maybe should start looking over their shoulders here.

So along with staying classy here's for hoping the wingnuts get into a full embrace of their inner (and often outer) racism.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on November 8, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just generalizing here, but my experience with my students is that Asians tend to be able to reason and do logical connections with little interference some faith based belief system. You can't say this about christianists and other wing nuts. Thus it isn't too surprising that an Asian or someone from an Asian cultural milieu would behave in a way that benefits the people he represents.

Mr. Cao can have a future as a Democrat. There was no way on this earth that he could have had one as a Republican no matter which way he voted. Coming from a heavily Democratic district he would have lost the next election no matter how he votes. Having voted for the health reform bill, the GOP will now see to it that he has no future as a Republican the same way Democrats will see to it that Fish Face in CN has no future in the Democratic Party. Now Mr. Cao at least has a chance of continuing on as a Democrat.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on November 8, 2009 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bipartisan? Because of g-OW's vote? A single swallow doesn't spring make, nor does a single raisin (make) a fruitcake.

Posted by: exlibra on November 8, 2009 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cao's first name is spelled Anh, not Ahn.

Posted by: Anh on May 15, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK



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