No stone unturned

NO STONE UNTURNED…. When it comes to House members who voted in support of health care reform in November, we know some of the 220 “yes” votes won’t be there for final passage. The trick is to keep as many of the 220 together as possible.

One of the most likely switches from “yes” to “no” is Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R) of Louisiana, who represents the most Democratic district currently represented by a Republican. Cao announced several weeks ago that he would not back the Senate bill, citing the abortion language as the sole factor in his decision.

Yesterday, President Obama met directly with Cao, and asked him to take another look.

“He’s asked if I would restudy the Senate language and that I would approach it with an open mind. And I promised that I would go back and study the Senate language again,” Cao said after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office for about 10 minutes Wednesday.

Cao said he appreciated the president’s sensitive approach in seeking his vote on an issue that many observers say could make or break Obama’s presidency.

“He fully understands where I stand on abortion, and he doesn’t want me to vote against my conscience because he, like me, believes that if we were to vote against our conscience, our moral values, there is really nothing left for us to defend,” Cao said. “I’m glad that the president is very understanding. He really shows his own moral character.”

I’d pretty very surprised if Cao backs the reform proposal, if for no other reason because his House Republican colleagues would likely become violent.

But if Cao were serious about re-evaluating the language in good faith, and considering whether he could support the bill in good conscience, he’d probably conclude that he can support the bill.

After all, he’s not the only pro-life official who was prepared to walk away from reform over this provision. Prominent members of the Democrats’ Pro-Life Caucus faced a similar struggle. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), for example, was reluctant to back reform until he read the specific language, “understood it better,” and agreed that the Senate version “does what we need to do.”

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), who trained to be a priest, came to the same conclusion, as did the Catholic Health Association, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, dozens of pro-life leaders, and the leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns.

If Cao wants to vote for this bill, he can vote for this bill.