Sen. David Vitter wants the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation of Democrats Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, saying the two broke the Senate’s code of conduct when they floated legislation referencing Vitter’s alleged past rendezvous with prostitutes.
Vitter appeal to the Ethics panel is the latest move in a rapidly escalating battle between the Louisiana Republican and his colleagues across the aisle.
Vitter infuriated Democrats this week by hijacking a debate over an energy-efficiency bill with an amendment aimed at Obamacare. Under Vitter’s amendment, lawmakers would no longer qualify for federal contributions to help cover their health care costs.
It’s a prickly subject for Democrats, and, according to a Friday Politico report, they’re considering the hardest of hardball moves in response. The Democrats are reportedly floating legislation that would ban senators from getting government contributions for their health insurance costs if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes. The move is an obvious swipe at Vitter, who has been suspected of involvement with prostitutes since his 2007 entanglement in the “D.C. Madam” scandal.
But in his call for an Ethics investigation, Vitter is ignoring the swipe by focusing on an alternative draft of the legislation. Democrats reportedly floated an alternative version of their bill that would deny coverage contributions to any lawmaker who voted in support of Vitter’s amendment. Vitter argues that bill amounts to bribery, with lawmakers offering benefits — in this case, the federal coverage contributions — to lawmakers in exchange for their votes.
“This is attempted bribery, and the exact sort of behavior that the Senate Ethics Committee has previously condemned,” he said in a letter to the committee heads.
In his letter, Vitter notes that Boxer is indeed the top Democrat on the Ethics panel. Should she be found complicit in the scheme, Vitter says that Boxer should be stripped of her Ethics Committee membership.
Boxer, for her part, is not backing down either: “Senator Vitter has manufactured a bizarre and phony attack that demeans the Senate,” she said later Friday.
Democrats have not yet formally introduced any version of the anti-Vitter bill, and none may ever hit the floor, but its appearance in press reports has put a spotlight on a part of Vitter’s career he would prefer remain part of the past.
This post was updated at 5:25 p.m. Friday to include Sen. Boxer’s response.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."