by: Jordan Blum
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., filed a new ethics complaint Thursday alleging possible “bribery” on the part of Democratic senators and staffers who floated a draft amendment, which was not filed, that tied his health care benefits to his 2007 prostitution scandal.
The Senate Ethics Committee rejected his initial ethics complaint that targeted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. So Vitter responded Thursday with a more detailed complaint targeting any senator or staff member who was involved in drafting the amendment.
One piece of draft legislation leaked to the media would deny lawmakers their health care government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes. In 2007, Vitter admitted to committing a “serious sin.”
The legislation was drafted earlier this month while Vitter was single-handedly blocking an energy bill until he received a vote on his proposal to require that members of Congress, their staffs and the president lose their employer contributions for health care and must acquire their health insurance independently through exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
Vitter on Thursday proposed that “no exemption” plan as an amendment to a needed budget stopgap to prevent a partial government shutdown on Tuesday. But Democrats are blocking his amendment.
In turn, Vitter also filed the new ethics complaint.
“This outrageous episode just shows how far Harry Reid and company will go to protect their Obamacare exemption,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “Well I have news for them: I’m not going away and this issue isn’t going away.”
In his ethics complaint, he wrote, “These senators’ actions and their staff’s drafting of such legislation, at best amounts to the appearance of impropriety and improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate. At worst, it amounts to bribery and coercion. The prospect of either warrants an investigation.”
He added that the amendment draft is proof that “its purpose was to intimidate, coerce senators to vote a certain way, and maliciously single out individuals.”
The Senate Ethics Committee on Tuesday said Vitter’s initial complaint amounted to “mere allegations” without evidence. The ruling called it “unprecedented” to have an ethics investigation over an amendment draft that was never filed and was not part of any bill.
“The Ethics Committee has already rejected Sen. Vitter’s baseless complaint,” Boxer said Thursday in an email response. “This whole matter has gone from bizarre to surreal. I believe a senator using the Ethics Committee to launch political attacks is unprecedented and outrageous.”
On the matter of the needed budget stopgap to prevent a government shutdown, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has stalled Senate passage of the bill until Friday.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has another amendment to the bill that attempts to delay for one year National Flood Insurance Program rate increases which are set to be phased in on Tuesday.
Landrieu complained on Thursday that the Senate has been unable to address flood insurance problems because of the “manufactured crisis” by Republicans over Obamacare that could lead to a government shutdown. Landrieu also noted that many people represented by Cruz in Texas also are impacted by the flood insurance rate hikes.