Some are speculating that it could be one vote that ends U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao’s career. Cao was the only Republican who voted for President Obama’s health care plan, HR-3962.
Cao, the first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress, took office in January 2009 in Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district. Cao is the first Republican to serve in the district since 1890, taking over for William J. Jefferson, who in 2008, faced federal charges of bribery.
Cao, a Roman Catholic, is known for being a moderate Republican and told the New York Times Magazine that the reason he is a Republican is because of the party’s pro-life stance against abortion. Cao took issue with the HR-3962’s abortion funding in its previous version. However, once abortion was taken out of the bill, he voted for it.
According to the Washington Times, Cao, justifying his decision to support the bill, said, “I am a novice. But I have to do what my conscience tells me to do.” On CNN, he said, “I had to make a decision … based on the needs of the people in my district.”
Though Cao and leaders of the Republican Party have stated that his decision to vote differently from the majority of his party is not causing a rift, many news reports are saying otherwise. The Washington Times reported that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said, “We’re coming after you. You’re going to find yourself in a very tough hole.” The Orlando Catholic Examiner reported that minority whip Eric Cantor refused to shake Cao’s hand after the vote.
Irregardless of how we feel about Obama’s health care plan, we commend Cao for making a tough decision based on the needs and wants of his mostly-Democratic constituency, though it has put him in an uncomfortable position within the GOP. Some critics have been cynical and have said that Cao’s vote was part of his agenda to get more funding for his district, which has been significantly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Rush Limbaugh has dubbed him, “Cash Cao.”
Let us not think the worst of people. Cao took an office that was known for its corruption and has made great strides in cleaning it up. He has used his legal training to assist Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, helping them become self-sufficient. In his law practice, Cao specialized in immigration law. He was inspired to enter politics after seeing the poor government response to Hurricane Katrina. For what we know of Cao, his intentions seem honorable and it’s not right to sling mud.
Obama touted bipartisanship during his campaign but has had problems fulfilling that ideal. We hope that Cao’s action is a symbol that our government is making a step in that direction. ♦