For Rep. Anh Cao (R-La.), his vote against Democrats’ health care bill may just be “the death of [his] political career.”
Rep. Cao represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district in New Orleans. Cao is one of seven Republicans whom Democrats have chosen to pursue strongly, hoping to convince him to change to his vote. They are currently running ads against him in his district, urging him to vote for health care.
Republicans had their doubts about Cao’s positions after being elected to represent the most Democratic district held by a Republican. As this piece on The American Spectator’s website points out, Cao is an interesting figure – refusing to call himself a conservative, co-sponsoring the Hate Crimes bill and being only 1 of 4 conservatives to vote for the supplemental war funds legislation. Yet, he voted against the stimulus bill, and unlike many others in Congress, is now reading the health care bill for the third time.
Cao’s position on health care doesn’t seem to have been made across party lines, but on principle. He has stated that while he recognizes the plight of the uninsured, he believes that current health care proposals will eliminate private insurance and lead to a complete government takeover of the health care industry.
He also is concerned with the bill’s provisions that would allow tax dollars to fund abortions. Without strong language prohibiting this from occurring, “the bill is a no-go” for him.
Cao’s most recent statements seemed to cement his opposition to the transformation of health care proposed by House Democrats. Still, he has even been contacted by the White House directly, trying to get his vote for the legislation.
Recognizing the more than likely unpopularity of his opinions on health care in his district, Cao has called his decision over the legislation “the most agonizing problem” that could ultimately end his political career.
For Cao, it is unfortunate that he may turn out to be right and that his political career, at least as a Representative of New Orleans, may indeed be over quickly. But, Cao is exactly the kind of leader that his constituents need – thoughtful, careful, pouring over a bill three times that the majority of members of Congress have not read and working hard to base his vote on what’s right – not on the future of his own career, along party lines or because of backroom deals he stand to benefit from.
Cao’s refusal to call himself a conservative, without any explanation, is probably a little too slick, a little too strategic for my tastes. However, if all that has been reported about him and his deliberative process is true, then conservatives and liberals alike could stand to take a page out of his book and put the interests of their constituents’ first – even at the cost of their own careers.
*Originally published August 4, 2009 on The American Issue Project Blog, here.