Policy-ish

Is This The Loneliest Republican In D.C.?

The loneliest Republican in Washington today is Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, the only member of the GOP to vote for the health overhaul bill put together by the Democrats in the House.

US Representative Joseph Cao and his daughter. i i

Republican Rep. Joseph Cao and his daughter listen to President Obama at a town hall meeting about the Gulf Coast recovery on October 15, 2009, in New Orleans. Chris Graythen/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Graythen/Getty
US Representative Joseph Cao and his daughter.

Republican Rep. Joseph Cao and his daughter listen to President Obama at a town hall meeting about the Gulf Coast recovery on October 15, 2009, in New Orleans.

Chris Graythen/Getty

Sure, Cao's got a lot of new Democratic pals, including President Obama, but we're not sure we'd want to be him at his next meeting with Republican leaders.

The Stupak amendment to the House bill, restricting abortion coverage, removed a big hurdle for Cao, a devout Catholic, to vote yes. Wooing by Obama didn't hurt.

Cao wants the feds to forgive $1.27 billion in disaster loans made to aid the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and the Wall Street Journal reports the feds said they'd try to do that.

Cao called his vote a matter of conscience. "Twenty percent of the people in my district are uninsured and we have tremendous health care issues in the district,'' Cao said after the vote, as reported by the Times-Picayune.

Cao, a 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, is a freshman in the House from New Orleans, who represents a heavily Democratic district. Educated by Jesuits, Cao passed on the priesthood in favor of social activism, becoming the in-house lawyer for Boat People SOS.

Cao's ticket to the House came courtesy of former Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson, convicted on bribery charges this summer. Cao's victory, even with Jefferson weakened by scandal, was still a shocker.

But keeping the seat could be the real trick. Cao voted against the president's stimulus package, infuriating folks back home. He defended himself in an interview with NPR's Tell Me More in March.

And before the Dems get carried away celebrating Cao's cooperation, it seems fair to point out that it just balanced out the no vote by another Louisiana representative Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who is running for the Senate.

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