On election night, Nov. 2, 2010, less than 12 months away, Speaker Nancy Pelosi might rue her victory celebration this past Saturday.
Pelosi, attired in a regal red dress, presided over the vote on the Democratic health care bill last Saturday night. The vote complete, she victoriously announced the bill's narrow passage by 220 to 215. Minutes later, Pelosi began the celebratory press conference with the exclamation, "Oh, what a night!"
That same statement might be the theme for next year's mid-term elections.
The final vote for the Democratic health care bill included 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats voting no, with 219 Democrats and one Republican voting yes.
The lone Republican vote came from Rep. Joseph Cao, R-Lou. a first-term congressman from an overwhelmingly Democratic district in New Orleans. The last Republican congressman elected from this district was Hamilton Coleman in 1888. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, this district is the most Democratic-leaning district that is currently represented by a Republican.
Cao understands he is in an unusual situation and understands his constituents can vote him in, and out, of office.
He was elected with 50 percent of the vote in a special election, replacing Rep. William Jefferson (yes, the man who was found with money in his freezer). The district, which is 64 percent African American, voted 75 percent for Barack Obama. The district has 22 percent uninsured, which is 50 percent higher than the national average. Cao, who according to The Washington Post has voted with the Republican Party 80 percent of the time, crossed the party line and voted for his constituents and, according to him, his conscience.
The Democratic Congress, primarily along party lines, had defeated the Republican health care alternative earlier in the day. With no other option, Cao voted yes.
In a post-celebratory news conference, Pelosi said, "The Democrats voted for the bill and a Republican voted for the bill; that equals bipartisan."
This attempt at claiming bipartisanship is disrespectful to the American people. They understand that one person crossing party lines does not bipartisanship make.
The passage of the Stupak Amendment, which prohibits abortion insurance coverage in the public insurance option and in private plans that accept people who are receiving government subsidies, was the last hurdle for Cao to vote yes for the Democratic health care plan.