Having written yesterday in Michele Bachmann, the Anti-Christ, and the Political Theologian on the need for politicians to be more transparent about their theological beliefs than they tend to be, I was greatly cheered to turn on the radio a few hours later while running errands in the car and hear someone explain why he voted for some bill (not identified in the interviewer’s question) even though doing so might well lose him his seat. I didn’t expect the answer I heard:
Correct. But as a strong pro-life advocate, I felt compelled not to support the final pass to healthcare because, as I mentioned already, it did not contain the language sufficient to restrict federal funding for abortion. And I could not go against my own conscience in that issue.
The speaker, it turned out, was former Congressman Joseph Cao, a Catholic, speaking to NPR’s Tell Me More. Here’s something from earlier in the interview:
MARTIN: Mr. Cao you voted for the original draft of the healthcare bill in 2009, although you did finally vote — you voted against the final iteration of it on the floor. But at the time you voted for it, you were the only Republican who voted for it. And I wondered whether you thought that you were putting your own career at risk as well?
CAO: When I voted for the original House bill, I – being a Republican representated the most Democratic district in the country and also a minority district — had to consider the needs of the people that I represented. It was the people that had a — 25 percent of the people did not have healthcare. And also, we were contending with post-Katrina reconstruction. And so, healthcare was always a major issue down here in the New Orleans area.
And so, I felt compelled to vote according to the needs of the people that I represented as long as the bill would issue that I voted on did not ask me to compromise some of my core moral values. I am strongly pro-life. And so, when we were able to get the abortion restriction language, the Stupak amendments, into the House bill at the very last minute, I had made commitments to the president that if we were able to get the language in, then I would vote for the bill. And so I did.
I’m not myself sure about that first vote, but to find a politician who thinks through his responsibilities and lives by his principles — not to mention who calls himself “strongly pro-life” on NPR — is very cheering.