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Behind the Lone Republican ‘Yes’ Vote

WASHINGTON - The lone Republican who voted for the sweeping health care changes that passed the House said Sunday that he "had to make a decision of conscience based on the needs of the people in my district."

Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana said on CNN that passage of an amendment limiting the use of federal money for abortions opened the way for him to support the bill. After the approval of the amendment by Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa., Cao "called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill," he said.

Cao's congressional district includes New Orleans and is the most heavily Democratic in Louisiana. He won his seat last December by defeating nine-term Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, who was later convicted of federal bribery charges.

"I had to make a decision, and I felt that last night's decision was the right decision for my district, even though it was not the popular decision for my party," Cao, 42, said of his vote late Saturday.

The Obama administration and Republican leaders, such as Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, lobbied Cao throughout Saturday. He made his decision as the voting came to a close and cast his "yes" vote as the Democrats passed the 218 votes needed for the bill to pass. The final tally was 220-215.

The first Vietnamese American in Congress, Cao fled Vietnam with two siblings when he was 8, according to the biography on his House website. He studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood before becoming a lawyer representing Vietnamese refugees.

Cao said he did not make any deals with President Obama in exchange for his vote. Cao has pushed for more aid to New Orleans to help the city recover after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 , and has supported Obama's actions to help Louisiana rebuild.

"The president and I, we have had a very good relationship, and I thank him and his administration for their hard work in helping me to rebuild my district after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina," Cao said Sunday. "I'm pretty sure that if I were to vote no against the bill the president would still continue to work with me to address the needs of my district."

Cao lost his home and law office during Katrina, according to his House website.

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