Saturday's vote to pass ObamaCare out of the House of Representatives was a nail-biter, passing with two votes to spare over the bare-minimum majority of 218. The final vote, 220-215, had 39 Democrats join all but one Republican in voting no.
Yet while a solid 15 percent of the Democratic caucus bucked the party leadership with their no votes, the media have latched on to the sole Republican defector: pro-life, social conservative Catholic Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), who has a tenuous hold in a solidly liberal Democratic district once held by the corrupt William Jefferson.
Time's Jay Newton-Small made much of the solitary Republican defection in Swampland blog post on Saturday, painting it as an abject failure of House GOP Whip Eric Cantor's "promise" to keep the opposition unified. Newton-Small had to add an update later clarifying Cantor made no such explicit promise:
After House GOP Whip Eric Cantor promised the Tea Partiers unified Republican opposition on Thursday, I assumed there wouldn't be any defections. After all, he succeeded in whipping total opposition to the stimulus and the budget. Word has it, though, that Republicans are worried about Rep. Joe Cao, a Louisiana Republican who took William "$90,000 in the freezer" Jeffferson's seat. Cao is a former Jesuit priest who votes in line with the Catholic Bishops. He won his seat in 2008, barely edging out Jefferson 50% to 47% despite the fact that Jefferson was under indictment at the time. President Obama won the district last year with 75% of the vote. Rumor has it that Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Ann DeParle have been leaning on Cao to follow the bishops and vote for the bill if the Stupak amendment passes.
Eric Cantor's office quibbles with the idea that he "promised the Tea Partiers unified Republican opposition." The actual quote: "Your efforts to stop this bill are being heard loud and clear and I will guarantee you that we are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this bill."
So one Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic district votes for the health care bill AFTER a key amendment assauging his concerns about subsidizing abortion with tax dollars is passed. The House Speaker and the White House chief of staff expended energy to get this token "bipartisan" support and only after the Democrats peeved the pro-abortion lobby, a key player in Democratic primary politics, by passing the Stupak amendment.
Yet somehow the real story is that the GOP's party whip was weak and unable to deliver a unified opposition?