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Melancon keeps alive, Cao snuffs political career

When the vote was called for H.R. 3962, a monstrous bill that will lower the quality of health care provision in America in exchange for higher premiums, higher taxes, and with incentives to bring under direct control of the government the sixth of the American economy it represents, two Louisiana representatives went into the chamber with their political careers on the line. One walked back out with it intact.

Rep. Charlie Melancon managed to get a pass from his mistress in the Democrat leadership to vote against the final version. The way it worked, the leadership lined up supporters with an eye towards letting those of their party in the most vulnerable electoral positions off the hook, with a hierarchical ranking. Since Melancon is not defending a district, but trying to knock off incumbent Sen. David Vitter, he probably had low priority and would be one of the first to be told to fall on his sword to venerate liberalism. Luckily for him, because 219 Democrats pledged or were ordered to support it and voted accordingly, with 218 needed to pass with a full chamber present, apparently enough slack existed for Melancon to have the leash taken off of him.

His bid for the Senate is a longshot, but he would have had absolutely no chance at winning it had the Democrat leadership not been able to round up a few extra bodies – including the newest member just narrowly elected from New York. Take him away, and that leaves one to spare – because one Republican only voted for the measure.

That was Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, and the move effectively ended his political career, at least as a Republican. It was top priority for the GOP to keep this mess from hurdling another obstacle, and while its leadership has cut a lot of slack for Cao in the knowledge he is a Republican representing one of the most Democrat districts in the country (courtesy of some hard work and former Rep. Bill Jefferson’s legal woes), this is one thing for which they would have been unable to give him a pass.

Expect GOP assistance to Cao to wane for next year’s election. At the very least, expect many potential small donors otherwise attracted to Cao’s great American success story and social conservatism not to open their wallets as a result for his reelection. His very slim chances of achieving this will get worse as a result, and the irony is this vote really will get him no political credit in the district as there are enough other things a black Democrat majority there can fault him on where this won’t compensate. If he voted to support this disaster by conscience, so be it; if he did so because of political calculation, that’s a really bad call.

Fortune has favored Melancon his entire federal office career, and he remains politically alive because of it on this occasion. Fortunate also in the dynamics that got him elected, Cao probably cannot make the same claim of political viability after this incident.

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