Earlier this week, New Orleans’ freshman congressman Joseph Cao (R) stated that he would vote for the economic recovery package. “I believe that more likely than not, I will vote for it because the 2nd Congressional District needs a stimulus package,” he said. Even on the day of the vote, Cao was telling reporters that he was “leaning yes.”
Beforehand, Cao acknowledged that Republican leaders had put “pressure” on him to oppose the package, and the party’s chief deputy whip, California Rep. Kevin O. McCarthy, stood near Cao during the entire vote.
After flip-flopping, Cao couldn’t get his story straight. He claimed, “Personally I was always against the bill.” He also told the Times-Picayune that the Obama administration made little effort to court his vote, but he told The Hill, “There was a White House representative who came over to my office [on Thursday], specifically assigned to me.”
Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Cao’s hopes for winning a second term depended on “people in the district identifying him as a thoroughly independent person who is not in the thrall of the Republican leadership. Now anyone running against him can say, ‘He’s a Republican mouthpiece.'”