Sunday, November 08, 2009

One cheer for Joseph Cao

Only one Republican voted for the health-care reform bill that passed the House last night: Joseph Cao. So why not three cheers?

First, Cao only voted for it because it included the vile, anti-choice Stupak Amendment that had been passed by an alliance of anti-choice Republicans and Democrats (Stupak being a Democrat), and that was the way to buy off some of those Democrats reluctant to vote for the bill as it was. If the Stupak Amendment hadn't been included, he apparently would have voted no.

Second, Cao voted for it -- on top of the Stupak Amendment -- because President Obama basically bought him off. Here's how Cao himself put it:

Today, I obtained a commitment from President Obama that he and I will work together to address the critical health care issues of Louisiana including the FMAP crisis and community disaster loan forgiveness, as well as issues related to Charity and Methodist Hospitals. And, I call on my constituents to support me as I work with him on these issues.

Needless to say, I'm hardly against this as a matter of public policy. And, certainly, a lot still needs to be done for New Orleans. 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. It was 220-215, not 218-217.

Third, he likely wouldn't have voted for the bill if his vote had been the deciding one. It wasn't, and his party let him loose seemingly without much of a fight, and without much of an effort on the part of the Bolsheviks to keep him in line. It wants to keep the seat, after all, though he is likely to be targeted by the party purifiers on the right, those who, for example, propped up Doug Hoffman in NY-23.

Fourth, Cao's move was all about his own political survival:

I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents.

Actually, no, he did it for himself, or at least a great deal for himself. His district, Louisiana's 2nd, is historically a Democratic stronghold. He's the first Republican to represent it in the House since 1891, and he only won it because his predecessor, the ridiculously corrupt William Jefferson, got busted for corruption. It's hard to fault Cao for worrying about his re-election prospects, but let's not mistake self-interest for nobility.

Joseph Cao, in other words, is hardly a profile in courage.

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