At a public townhall in New Orleans on Thursday, Republican Congressman Joseph Cao signaled that he was "leaning" towards supporting the Democratic proposal of fixing health care in America.
"The word is 'leaning, ' " he repeated to about 150 people gathered at an Irish Channel Neighborhood Association meeting, the first of four planned public forums for Cao during the August recess.
I wonder if the "leaning" is the same type of leaning he was doing with the stimulus package and President's Obama's budget. On those issues, Cao also sent early signals of support for the Democrats, only to be reeled back in by the Republican leadership. This time, Cao has given himself some clearer wiggle room, all in the name of religion, of course:
In a public forum defined as much by passionate declarations on abortion as by statements about health care policy intricacies, U.S. Rep. Ahn "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans, said Thursday that he "leans" toward supporting the House Democrats' vision of a medical system overhaul provided it won't pay for procedures to end pregnancy.
Besides the abortion caveat, Cao further tempered his statement with his concerns about how major policy changes affect the federal budget, future deficit projections, the larger economy and Medicare recipients.
"These are issues that concern the president as well, " Cao said, adding one of his many references to the complexity of the proposals and his continued struggle on a decision.
Given the demographics of the district, it was great to hear that people showed up to voice support for the public option.
Cao heard from a crowd that seemed overwhelmingly in favor of a major system overhaul, with several questioners explicitly advocating a public option and chiding Cao for his statements about abortion and his party's framing of the larger debate.
Melanie Miranda of the Irish Channel criticized Cao's previous public statements about his Catholic faith and his absolute opposition to abortion. "I didn't vote for you because you are a Jesuit, " she said. "I voted for you to represent your constituents."
Federal law, called the Hyde Amendment, already bars taxpayer-paid abortion, and the bill that has passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee does not explicitly alter that policy. Cao contends that any bill must include language to reaffirm the Hyde Amendment or risk being interpreted as a loophole to existing law.
Patrick Fahey of the Garden District asked Cao, "Why are we so concerned about abortion when we have children already here without health care?" his voice rising with each word.
Cao replied calmly that his is a "moral position, " not a "religious position." He said, "I cannot compromise that particular stance."
I am not holding my breath on this one, but it's still good to hold his feet to the fire.