The one House Republican to support health care reform said on Sunday that his decision to back the bill was driven by his conscience and the needs of his district and not back-room dealing with the White House or Democrats.
Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La), appearing on CNN, said that he cast his vote in favor of reform only after an amendment greatly restricting the coverage of abortions was allowed to come to a vote. Once that hurdle was clear, Cao said, "I called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill."
The subject of a fierce, late-in-the-game, lobbying effort between Democrats and Republicans, Cao ultimately voted yea because, as he put it, "I had to make a decision of conscience based on the needs of the people in my district."
"I had to make a decision and I felt that last night's decision was the right decision for my district," he added. "Even though it was not the popular decision for my party."
The first-term Republican, who hails from a very Democratic district in New Orleans, insisted that he did not consider possible electoral ramifications before casting his votes. Asked whether he had offered his support to the White House in exchange for additional help in Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, he similarly dismissed the charge.
"The president and I, we have had a very good relationship, and I thank him and his administration for their hard work in helping me to rebuild my district after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina," Cao said. "I'm pretty sure that if I were to vote no against the bill the president would still continue to work with me to address the needs of my district. But I felt it was important of me to support the president in this matter because, like I said before, based on my own conscience, it was the right decision for my district."