Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), the lone GOP vote for the House health reform bill that passed late last night, has responded to RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s warnings about stepping outside of party lines. (WATCH Steele: “We’ll come after you.”)
Cao told CNN that Steele retains “the right to come after those members who do not conform to party lines, but I would hope that he would work with us in order to adjust to the needs of the district and to hold a seat that the Republican party would need.” He represents the second congressional district of Louisiana, a solidly Democratic district that includes New Orleans. Cao said earlier today that he put the needs of his district over what was popular with his own party.
Cao’s opponent was former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who was under indictment on corruption charges at the time of the election, widely seen as the sole reason the Republican was able to triumph in this specific district. His unique victory was celebrated by Steele and other GOP leaders, a fact which the young lawmaker is not letting party leadership soon forget.On November 5, Steele issued the following warning to Republicans considering voting for the House Democrats’ health bill:
Candidates who live in moderate to slightly liberal districts have got to walk a little bit carefully here, because you do not want to put yourself in a position where you’re crossing that line on conservative principles, fiscal principles. Because we’ll come after you. You’re gonna find yourself in a very tough hole if you’re arguing for the president’s stimulus plan or Nancy Pelosi’s health plan. There’s no justification for growing the size of government the way this administration and this Congress wants to do it.
And according to CNN, the freshman Republican from Louisiana isn’t fazed in the slightest:
Cao chuckled when asked about the comment and said he “would like to remind” Steele that he and other Republican leaders trumpeted Cao’s upset win over Democrat William Jefferson last December as a symbol of party diversity. Cao is the first Vietnamese-American member of Congress.
In the same interview where Steele sounded his GOP watchdog alarm, he also said that he wants to “partner as much as possible” with tea partiers — a potent combination that would be sure to stir up some fun reactions in Cao’s district, which voted 75% to elect Obama in 2008.
Cao told CNN that President Obama called him around noon yesterday to personally ask for his vote on the bill. Read Cao’s statement on his vote here.