November 7th, 2009
There are 435 congressmen and women in the House. 257 of those are Democrats. If the 178 Republicans vote as a block — as is expected — the Democrats would have needed 218 votes to prevail in tonight’s vote.
I watched the vote on the Health Care bill on CNN tonight. It was tense — better, frankly, than most of the World Series games.
For the longest time, the Republicans had 177 up on their side of the tote board while the Dems slowly clicked upwards — 215, 216, 217, and then 218, and a huge cheer. The Affordable Health Care for Americans Act, passed the House. Final score, 220 to 215. It is now ready to go to the Senate — probably with a lot more nail-biting.
Then something unexpected happened. Under the Republican column, the numeral one appeared. I was certainly curious, but it was many minutes before newscaster Don Lemon said it was a congressman from Louisiana. A southern Republican from Louisana broke ranks?
Yes. The man was Joseph Cao, a freshman congressman who grew up in Vietnam. In 2008, he beat the crooked Democrat, William Jefferson by only a 2% of the electorate. Jefferson is the guy who was caught with $90,000 in ill-gotten funds in a freezer in his home.
What strikes me as fascinating and heartening, is that there could be in this hyper-authoritarian atmosphere, a Republican strong enough to break ranks. The fact that Cao was seated next to Eric Kantor, the House Minority Whip, is even more impressive.
As I write I am hearing Nancy Pelosi thanking those who voted for the bill. I just heard her say the words “…they have courage.” I hope the freshman Republican is one of those on her mind.