The only Republican to vote for House Democrats' healthcare bill this weekend stressed on Monday that his party's leaders did not harangue him for his decision.

Instead, the House GOP leadership treated his party defection in a "professional" way, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) told Fox News.

"I knew that it would cause some, I guess, 'talking points' within the party, but to tell you the truth, the party leadership, they were very professional about it," he told Fox's Geraldo Rivera. "They do realize I have a very poor district, and they do realize that this healthcare reform bill, or any kind of reform, can help the people of my district."


House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) "fully understands my position," Cao added, "and even though he would like for me to vote along with the party, at the end of the day, they were very professional."

Cao, considered a vulnerable incumbent in 2010, is likely to take serious heat from conservatives over the next few days -- if not months -- for his vote on Saturday. Although the Louisiana Republican said he waited until Democrats had obtained 218 votes before he cast his, he reportedly decided to vote for the healthcare bill before he entered the chamber -- an admission likely to frustrate Cantor, in particular, who hoped to whip every GOP vote against Democrats' bill, as he did when the party voted on the stimulus months ago.

Cao on Monday stressed his decision to vote for the bill was motivated mostly out of concern for his district, which is still struggling to address troubles in its healthcare delivery system. But he also repeated Monday he used his vote to seek assurances from the president that he would continue working to help the Gulf Coast recover from the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The president and the administration -- they have been very good in working with us, on all of the recovery issues, and I just want to reinforce the fact we still [have work to do]," he said.

"I received a commitment from the president that he will continue to work with me to push all the recovery issues," Cao added.