Congressman Joseph Cao of Louisiana was the lone Republican
to vote for Saturday's health care reform legislation, which passed
by a slim margin. Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to
Congress, comes from a liberal district he won after his Democrat opponent succumbed to scandal. Why did Cao vote "aye" on the
legislation, when every other Republican rejected it? Speculation has focused on the specifics of his district
(he is up for re-election next year), his relationship with the White
House, and the intricacies of Vietnamese-American politics.
- Needed to Win Re-Election Steve Benen thinks the vote makes sense given Cao's liberal district. "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
Cao's voting record makes him the single most moderate House GOP member."
- Changing Vietnamese-American Politics The Economist's Democracy in America explains.
"Vietnamese-Americans are one of the few immigrant demographics among
whom Republicans do very well, because of their legacy of
anti-communism." But this is changing, in part because they are usually
a minority proportion of Congressional districts. So
Vietnamese-American politicians must appeal to other minority groups --
typically Latino or African-American -- for a chance at political
viability. Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress,
could signify this new trend. "Any Vietnamese-American candidate who
wants to win an election is going
to have to make himself viable to the other minority populations who
inhabit heavily Vietnamese-American districts. [...] But the Republican
party has no room for any policy compromises that might play well to
- 'Bought Off' By Obama Huffington Post's Michael J.W. Stickings insists
Cao voted yes "because President Obama basically bought him off" by
promising to address problems in Cao's district. Stickings writes, "But
other states face 'critical health care issues.' Why shouldn't they
get similar presidential attention? Because Cao was the one Republican
who could be bought off? The thing is, the Democrats didn't even need
Cao's vote for passage."
- A Symbolic Vote The Hill's Molly K. Hooper reports
that Cao waited to cast his vote until the moment when it no longer
mattered how he voted. "Once the tally board lit up 218-213, however,
Cao was free to put his
congressional voting card in electronic key slot and cast an 'aye' vote
for the bill his party has dubbed 'Pelosi’s healthcare bill.' He
did it quickly, and quietly, while the rest of the chamber was
applauding for having cleared the vote threshold needed for passage,
the vulnerable Republican was recorded as voting for the sweeping $1.2
- Surprise to GOP Leadership Think Progress's Igor Volsky suggests
Republican leaders didn't foresee Cao's vote. "At the 'House Call' tea
party protest on Capitol Hill this week,
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) pledged to the right-wing
activists: 'Be assured not one Republican will vote for this bill.'
Cao's vote must have surprised Cantor. Cao has previously been touted
by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) once as 'the future' of
the GOP. The White House had reportedly 'been in constant contact' with
him prior to the vote. 'Rahm is going all in to get him,' one aide told
Roll Call, referring to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel."
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