Sen. Scott Brown, meet Rep. Anh Joseph Cao. You two have a lot in common.
Brown became a hero of conservative Republicans last month when he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by the late Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy but he saw how quickly the political winds can turn this week when, in his first vote since being sworn in Feb. 4, he broke ranks with the GOP and voted for Sen. Harry Reids jobs bill. Brown, who had raised more than $14 million in the 19 days before the election, found himself under attack by the very conservative media which had buoyed him (Glenn Beck, once a supporter, took to the airwaves to denounce Brown as a "liar") and besieged by angry donors nationwide asking for their money back.
It all might sound familiar to Cao, the Louisiana Republican who was hailed as a hero when he took the traditionally Democratic 2nd District seat in January 2009. At the time, House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner issued a statement titled The Future is Cao -- but the honeymoon was definitely over in November, when Cao was the only Republican to vote for a version of President Barack Obamas health care bill, and suffered the financial consequences from his own party. According to an Associated Press report this week, Caos campaign contributions dropped 40 percent in the three months since that vote. The AP also reported Cao had raised $874,602 since beginning his reelection campaign last year -- but had spent $640,000 of it on more fundraising. (Cao will need all the money he can get, as Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond has already announced he's running for the seat later this year.)
It may be too early to tell whether Brown will feel the slap of checkbooks closing, but his supporters went into paroxysms of fury on his Facebook page, many of them swearing never to give the junior senator another cent. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all came from the blog The Rude News, which headlined its condemnation Heckuva Job, Brownie. Ouch.
The New York Times' Deborah Solomon (who's drawn her own questions for her questioning style), sits down for a Q&A with Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao in this Sunday's Times Magazine. Naturally, his health-care vote is top of the agenda. A couple (actually, three) highlights:
A first-term congressman from New Orleans, you are the one and only Republican in the House who voted in favor of the Democrats health care plan. Have you been scolded by the Republicans for breaking rank?
Not my party leadership, but only by Republicans all over the United States who are disappointed with my vote. But not at all from the party leadership.
Did you support the bill to curry favor with your constituents? You represent a mostly black district that is among the poorest in the nation.
This is a personal position of mine. I do believe that we need health care reform. I do believe that we as a government have a duty to help those who are in need but who cannot help themselves.
Why did you become a Republican?
Because of their strong pro-life stance. That alone.
(Weird question about "curry favor with your constituents" -- isn't that what elected officials are supposed to do?)
Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao held his first of four health care town hall meetings tonight at the regular neighborhood association meeting of the Irish Channel Christian Fellowship on First Street. More than 100 people turned out to hear the congressman and ask questions, but the tenor -- while tense at times -- was largely free of the rancor at so many other health care town halls this heated season.
Cao won points from the crowd by taking questions by a lottery system, rather than having them prescreened (as Sen. David Vitter has been doing at his town halls).
Judging from the random questions, the crowd was pro-health care reform and skeptical about Cao's commitment to the cause. For his part, Cao said he was undecided on the D.C. plan (or plans), but in an interview earlier this month that was widely quoted in the Catholic press, he sounded pretty definite:
At the end of the day if the health care reform bill does not have strong language prohibiting the use of federal funding for abortion, then the bill is really a no-go for me, said Cao, who spent time in formation to be a Jesuit priest....
I know that voting against the health care bill will probably be the death of my political career, Cao said, but I have to live with myself, and I always reflect on the phrase of the New Testament, How does it profit a man's life to gain the world but to lose his soul.
So what did the Congressman have to say to a crowd that was clearly more concerned with health-care reform than abortion? Answers under the jump...
Edited to add: Bill Barrow's account of the meeting is up at The Times-Picayune's Web site. Barrow's account is thorough, but his takeaway is that Cao is "leaning" TOWARD the Democratic plan, which certainly wasn't my impression, nor the impression of anyone with whom I spoke after the meeting. Instead, Cao said his possible approval would be based on three fairly stringent conditions (unambiguous language about abortion, assurances that Medicare/Medicaid wouldn't be harmed, and a better understanding as to how this would affect the Federal budget. It seemed to me, based on the meeting and on earlier statements, that Cao was leaning in precisely the opposite direction. Were you there? What did you think?
The Baton Rouge Advocate comes out swinging in an editorial about Gov. Bobby Jindal's much-vaunted transparency:
Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone on record opposing President Barack Obamas health-care plan because it isnt transparent enough.
Were all for transparency, but we were surprised to see the governor criticizing someone else for not practicing it.
Perhaps we shouldnt have been surprised. This is a governor, after all, who has favored one standard of transparency for members of the Legislature and other public officials, but another, more secretive standard for himself....
This is clearly a governor whose guiding philosophy is Do as I say, not as I do."
The Hill reports the White House is leaning on Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao:
Rep. Joseph Cao voted against the economic stimulus measure, climate change legislation and President Barack Obamas budget, but that hasnt stopped the White House from trying to get his vote on healthcare reform.
The vulnerable GOP Louisiana lawmaker told The Hill that the White House legislative liaison assigned to lean on Cao, Jim Papa, recently contacted his office. But Cao says the White House will have to wait because he is still reading the bill, which is over 1,000 pages long....
Was Kanye West behind the Reggie Bush/Kim Kardashian split?...
Roger Wilson, the New Orleans actor who starred in the first two Porky's movies and was also famous for dating model Christy Turlington, has been working as a bartender for a while, according to the New York Post's Page Six...
Looks like the Dollar Bill jurors will be ending their second day of deliberations with no verdicts. Court reconvenes on Monday.
Hot off the press-release presses:
The New Orleans City Council will hold a Special Council Meeting on Tuesday, July 28th at 2 p.m. in the Council Chamber, City Hall.
The Council will consider Ordinances relative to the acquisition of the Chevron Building, located at 935 Gravier Street, as the site for a new City Hall, as well as any other matters that may properly come before the Council.
These Ordinances are to be considered in a Special Council Meeting as a result of their deferral at yesterday's regular Council meeting.
Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Sylvain-Lear made a presentation yesterday on the Administration's position regarding the need for a new City Hall, improvements needed at the current City Hall, and a comparative analysis of the current City Hall and the Chevron Building.
The Lutheran youth in town are having a rally tonight at the Louisiana Superdome, and will dispatch volunteers tomorrow on buses, ferrying 12,000 volunteers around the city to work on more than 200 projects. Meanwhile, their moms found our earlier "Welcome to the city!" blogpost and have been leaving sweet messages. Thanks, Lutheran Moms!
Author E. Lynn Harris died this morning at 54. He was a favorite among New Orleans readers and the first writer to conduct a signing at the Afro-American Book Stop when it reopened last December. Essence magazine has a tribute, along with reminiscences of Harris by other writers.
The director of the new indie film New Orleans, Mon Amour, Michael Almereyda, gives an interview to IndieWire. Sounds interesting ... and the star is the amazing Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on our favorite show, Mad Men.
Christopher Tidmore says State Rep. Juan LaFonta is going to challenge U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao for the 2nd Congressional seat when reelection time rolls around in 2010.
Last: Go to jail in Iberia Parish, be prepared to be pretty in pink:
It's a punishment Warden Frank Ellis says he learned was very effective since they implemented the pink jumpsuits 8 months ago.
Now, they're painting the lockdown pod to match the inmate uniforms.
Warden Ellis" "a color means something, when they are put in pink, it's demeaning to them, they feel they lost their manhood they've lost control and we are now in control." ...
"It would really disturb me to wear pink and go to court in pink. It's not easy wearing pink" said one inmate we spoke to.
For the warden, the change to pink has meant a change to a prettier attitude.
Another inmate explains: "If it was Abercrombie and I wasn't here it wouldn't matter, but due to the fact, it's a pink jumpsuit and you are in jail, you have to uphold some manly levels."
BY ALLEN M. JOHNSON JR.
Gov. Bobby Jindals veto of state funding for New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) has put pressure on fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Anh Joseph Cao to address the projected Sept. 1 closing of the mental health facility.
One day after Jindals June 30 veto of $14.2 million for NOAH, activists passed out leaflets at a Mid-City health care fair -- hosted by Cao - urging the congressman to support keeping the 35-bed hospital Uptown.
Cao said that he asked Jindal Administration officials if NOAH could remain in New Orleans if $4.5 million in federal funds could be found to plug the state funding shortfall for NOAH (which the governor put at $5.8 million). They did not make a commitment, Cao said of state health officials.
The congressman added that earlier in the week he asked a City Park "roundtable" of area hospital executives if they could accommodate more mental health beds. However, the executives replied that mental health beds are too costly for private facilities to maintain because of a lack of federal Medicaid reimbursements, Cao said. Childrens Hospital has space for 16 additional beds for mental health, the congressman added, but the nonprofit would need $1 million for the expansion.
In his veto message, Jindal said NOAH costs twice as much to operate as other state inpatient facilities. The governor said the consolidation of NOAH and transfer of its beds to the state Southeast Louisiana Hospital at Mandeville would result in $9.1 million in savings and no loss of patient services, while providing community-based mental health services in New Orleans.
Critics fear that transportation of mental patients across Lake Pontchartrain will pose a financial hardship on local governments, hospital emergency rooms and visiting family members. A legislative override of Jindals veto is widely viewed as unlikely. Allen M. Johnson Jr.
The Restore Our Coast: Repower Louisiana town hall forum (Wednesday, April 15, at Loyola University) presented that rare opportunity for environmentalists, scientists and the public to face possible political allies. A meeting of the minds, green and political -- in this case, Councilwoman Shelley Midura and Sen. J.P. Morrell. Oh, and Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao.
After giving an opening statement and answering one question on whether or not he supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, for which congressional hearings will begin next Tuesday, he stated that he had another meeting to attend and rose from his seat.
I am concerned about global warming and I believe that it is an issue that needs to be addressed. ... I cant vote [on] the bill without knowing specific details what position that Im going to have. But again, I am ... open and I hope the country - that we will reach our goal of being energy independent and to basically have an economy that will encompass the green jobs that we basically want, said Cao, right before he said that he must leave to go to another appointment.
Cao's office would not disclose where he went following the forum.
Christian Roselund with the Alliance for Affordable Energy says the panelists as well as the Alliance and event planners "were a bit surprised."
Jonathan Henderson, 1Sky Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network, says Cao staffers informed him Cao "wasn't going to stay the whole time" just before the forum began, but Henderson anticipated Cao staying longer than he did and was disappointed he left early.
"We had a lot of important questions (the forum) wasn't able to ask," he says. "It would have been nice to hear what he had to say."
Henderson says the organizations are looking forward to hopefully working with Cao in the future, as a key piece of environmental legislation (the American Clean Energy and Security Act) is set to hit the congressional floor next week.
"And we need his support," Henderson says.
Tonight, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, the Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, 1Sky and the Loyola University Community Action Program host the Restore Our Coast: Repower Louisiana town hall forum on climate change, coastal restoration and energy.
The forum brings together Congressman Joseph Cao, New Orleans City Council Member Shelley Midura, Louisiana Senator JP Morrell, Monique Harden of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, John Barry of Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East and Dr. Sarah Mack, an environmental and public health specialist.
From Jordan Macha, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer in Louisiana:
We are in a time where critical decisions need to be made regarding energy, climate change and its impacts on Louisiana and the nation. Today's leaders and youth will inherit this crisis and are in need of serious education on the issue.
Louisiana's citizens will have the opportunity to demand real solutions to the climate change crisis.
From Jonathan Henderson, 1Sky organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network:
Louisiana is ground zero for the impact of climate change. Rising sea-levels, more powerful hurricanes and invasive species are just some of the severe risks associated with ignoring the issue.
We have an opportunity with a new President and new Congress to help prevent catastrophic climate change, but we need the leadership of Louisiana's congressional delegation, including Congressman Cao.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Loyola University's Nunemaker Auditorium and is free and open to the public.
God's speed, Rodrigue
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