Cain dodges scandal questions on Capitol Hill


WASHINGTON — Herman Cain came to Capitol Hill to
address the congressional health care caucus at a House office building
Wednesday, but it was clear from the media scrum inside the room and
outside in the hallway that health policy was the last thing on anyone’s

Cain was fresh from campaign events in
Northern Virginia, where he declined to answer questions about
allegations of sexual harassment stemming from his time at the National
Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

As Cain
arrived on the Hill, the association confirmed that it had been
contacted by a lawyer for one of Cain’s accusers, which could lead to
discussions over whether the association will free the woman from a
confidentiality agreement she signed as part of a settlement. Should the
trade group decide to do so, the woman, who remains unidentified, would
then be able to publicly detail her version of events for the first

“From all the turmoil out in the hall, it
sounds like Mr. Cain is here,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican
from Texas who chairs the caucus, before Cain showed.

called the storm surrounding Cain “a distraction” and urged the
reporters in the room to confine their questions to health care. Shortly
afterward, Cain, hounded by questions regarding the accusations,
entered the small, packed meeting room and the doors were shut behind

“You can see there is an intense interest on health care policy on the Republican side,” Burgess joked to Cain.

members of the House were present for Cain’s talk. Among them in the
room when he arrived were Reps. Billy Long of Louisiana, a freshman;
Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania; and Rep. Andy Harris, a freshman
from Maryland.

Cain gave a short speech on health
care policy, citing, as he has in the past, his own experience as a
cancer survivor as an argument against the Democratic health care reform
law. He said he would plan to sign a bill repealing the plan on March
23, 2013, his son’s birthday. “I’m going to unpass it on my son’s
birthday,” he pledged.

After his brief remarks,
there was a momentary pause. “Can I ask a question,” he said. “Are y’all
too busy to applaud?” Cain apparently was unaware that most of the
small audience was composed of congressional staffers, reporters and
camera operators. Still, the members and staff obliged.

Cain replied to several questions on health care from the Republicans
present, Burgess abruptly ended the session before any of the assembled
media could ask Cain about the scandal.

quickly exited the room, trailed by reporters. He ignored all shouted
questions, except inquiries about health care. Asked what his current
insurance plan is, Cain said he is paying for a COBRA extension.

“It’s expensive,” he said.

one of the stranger moments, Cain, his entourage, the pack of reporters
and a few police officers passed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
in a crowded stairwell. Geithner smiled as in disbelief and kept


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