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David Bruce Vitter (born May 3, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from Louisianamarker and a member of the Republican Party. Formerly a member of the United States House of Representatives, first elected in 1999, representing the suburban Louisiana's 1st congressional district, Vitter was elected to the Senate in 2004.

Vitter was born and raised in New Orleansmarker. He attended Harvard Universitymarker for his undergraduate studies and Tulane Universitymarker for law schoolmarker in addition to winning a Rhodes Scholarship to University College, Oxfordmarker. He served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives before entering the U.S. House.

Vitter posits himself as a staunch political conservative. His legislative agenda includes positions ranging from pro-life to pro-gun rights while legislating against gambling, same-sex marriage, funding for abortion providers, increases in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the United Nations, and amnesty for America's undocumented workers.

Vitter's stated positions include a balanced budget constitutional amendment, abolishing the federal and state estate tax, increasing local police forces, and an assortment of health care, tax and national defense reforms.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter worked with the Louisiana congressional delegation to bring disaster relief to the region for rebuilding and aiding the victims disagreeing primarily over the issue of public housing.

In July 2007, Vitter was identified as a client of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey's prostitution service in Washington, D.C.marker

Vitter has announced that he is running for reelection to his Senate seat in 2010.

Early life, career, and family

Vitter was born in New Orleansmarker to Audrey Malvina St. Raymond and Albert Leopold Vitter, and graduated in 1979 from De La Salle High Schoolmarker. He received a B.A. from Harvard Universitymarker in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker, in 1983; a B.A. from Oxford Universitymarker in 1985, as a Rhodes Scholar; and a Juris Doctor from the Tulane University Law Schoolmarker in New Orleans in 1988. He was a lawyer, adjunct law professor at Tulane and Loyola Universities, and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999, when he entered the U.S. House of Representatives.

Vitter and his wife Wendy, a former prosecutor, have three daughters, Sophie, Lise, and Airey, and a son, Jack. Vitter's brother Jeffrey is a notable academic, a computer science professor and former provost of Texas A&M Universitymarker.

House of Representatives

Elections

Vitter won a special election to Louisiana's 1st congressional district in 1999, succeeding Republican Congressman Bob Livingston, who resigned after an adultery scandal. In the initial vote on May 1, 1999, former Congressman and Governor David Treen finished first with 36,719 votes (25 percent). Vitter was second, with 31,741 (22 percent), and white nationalist David Duke finished third with 28,055 votes (19 percent). Monica L. Monica, a Republican ophthalmologist, had 16 percent; State Representative Bill Strain, a conservative Democrat, finished fifth with 11 percent; and Rob Couhig, a Republican lawyer and the owner of New Orleans's minor league baseball team, had 6 percent. In the special election runoff on May 29, Vitter defeated Treen, 61,661 votes (51 percent) to 59,849 (49 percent).

In 2000 and 2002, Vitter won re-election with over 80 percent of the vote in what has become a safe Republican district.

2002 gubernatorial race

In 2002, Vitter was preparing to run for governor in 2003, with the incumbent, Republican Mike Foster prevented by term limits from running again. But in June 2002, shortly before the Louisiana Weekly ran a story about Vitter's alleged relationship with a prostitute, Vitter dropped out of the governor's race, saying he and his wife were dealing with marital problems.

United States Senate

2004 election

In 2004, Vitter ran to replace Democrat John Breaux in the U.S. Senate. Former state Senator Daniel Wesley Richey, a Baton Rougemarker political consultant, directed Vitter's grassroots organization in the race, with assistance from Richey's longtime ally, former state Representative Louis E. "Woody" Jenkins of Baton Rouge, himself a defeated U.S. Senate candidate in 1978, 1980, and 1996.

During the campaign, Vitter was accused by a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee of having had a lengthy affair with a prostitute in New Orleans. Vitter responded that the allegation was "absolutely and completely untrue" and that it was "just crass Louisiana politics."

On November 2, 2004, Vitter won the jungle primary, garnering a majority of the vote, while the rest of the vote was mostly split among the Democratic contenders.

Vitter was the first Republican in Louisiana to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator. The previous Republican Senator, William Pitt Kellogg, was chosen by the state legislature in 1876, in accordance with the process used before the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution went into effect in 1914.

2010 election

Vitter began fundraising for his 2010 reelection run in December 2008. He has raised $731,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and $2.5 million for his 2010 campaign.

Committee assignments



Prostitution scandal

D.C. Madam

In early July 2007, Vitter's phone number was included in a published list of phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, a company owned and run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, also known as the "D.C. Madam", convicted by the U.S. government for running a prostitution service. Hustler identified the phone number and contacted Vitter's office to ask about his connection to Palfrey. The following day, Vitter issued a written statement:

The statement containing Vitter's apology said his telephone number was included in phone records dating from his days as a member of the House of Representatives. Phone records show that Vitter's number was called by Palfrey's service five times, the first on October 12, 1999, and the last on February 27, 2001. Two calls were placed while House roll call votes were in progress.

On July 16, 2007, after a week of self-imposed seclusion, Vitter emerged and called a news conference. Standing next to his wife, Vitter asked the public for forgiveness. Following Vitter's remarks, Wendy Vitter, his wife, spoke. Both refused to answer any questions.

As background, several news outlets reported that in May 1999, Vitter replaced Congressman Bob Livingston after Livingston resigned due to an adultery scandal. Vitter said about Livingston's decision to resign, "It's obviously a tremendous loss for the state. I think Livingston's stepping down makes a very powerful argument that Clinton should resign as well and move beyond this mess", referring to Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Vitter is unlikely to face criminal charges due to the statute of limitations. Vitter apologized to GOP Senate colleagues, but avoided the press, who repeatedly attempted to talk to him.

On November 13, 2007, the attorney for Palfrey served Vitter with a subpoena to force him to testify at a November 28, 2007 hearing about whether an act of prostitution occurred with a Palfrey escort and when. The following week, the judge in the case canceled the hearing. Palfrey's attorney indicated he planned to subpoena Vitter to testify at her 2008 criminal trial, even though Vitter might have pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination but in the end he wasn't called to testify. Vitter refused to comment on the matter.

After Senator Larry Craig was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for acting improperly after his arrest for lewd contact toward another man in an airport bathroom in February 2008, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington questioned why the committee had not taken similar action against Vitter. The committee later dismissed the complaint.

Vitter incurred significant legal and public relations expenses in his efforts to avoid giving testimony in the Palfrey trial and to respond to the ethics complaint. Consequently, his attorneys sought permission from the Federal Election Commission to use campaign funds to pay for these expenses. The Commission, along partisan lines, couldn't agree whether funds could be used for reimbursing costs related to the Palfrey trial but did allow them to pay for expenses connected to the Ethics Committee complaint.

Canal Street Madam

On July 10, 2007, Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam", alleged that Vitter was a customer on more than one occasion in the 1990s, when Maier was identified by federal prosecutors as operating a $300 per hour brothel. The Times-Picayune reported that "Maier offered no evidence or documents to support her claim." Maier said that Vitter "was not a freak. He was not into anything unusual or kinky or weird," and that he favored one prostitute in particular, Wendy Cortez, the name of the prostitute with whom Vitter had been accused, during his 2004 campaign, of having had a lengthy affair. Vitter denied that allegation during the campaign. On July 12, Cortez told the Times-Picayune that Vitter was "a regular customer" during his time in the state legislature, but that they "did not have a romantic relationship."
On September 12, 2007, The Times-Picayune reported that the woman, whose real name was Wendy Ellis, had passed a lie detector exam.


Reaction

While the Louisiana state Republican Party offered guarded support, national Republicans offered forgiveness. The Nation predicted that the Republican Party would be in a "forgiving mood", pointing out if Vitter did step down, then Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, would likely appoint a Democrat to take Vitter's place until a special election took place, thus increasing Democratic control over the Senate. Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News agreed, saying that since there is a Democratic governor in Louisianamarker, "they were afraid if they slapped around Vitter too much, that seat would go Democratic."

Marianne Means, a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers, reported that Republican senators gave Vitter a "loud standing ovation", which she characterized as hypocritical by contrasting this with the Republican attitude toward Clinton's marital infidelity. The applause came after Vitter privately apologized to his colleagues.

Republican Senator Sam Brownback told Bloomberg Television on October 5, 2007 that Vitter should be censured by the Senate. He said, "I think you could see something like that taking place. If you look at the actual crime itself and the discussion across the country– and as a Republican– this is bad."

In July 2007, The New York Times reported that Vitter's chairmanship of Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid was in doubt due to the controversy, but his job was ultimately secure though "quietly marginalized".

In December 2007, an editorial in the Advocate (Baton Rougemarker) claimed that Vitter had lost influence because of the controversy. In the same month, Time magazine listed the controversy as one of the top ten awkward moments of 2007.

In a similar vein when the Eliott Spitzer prostitution scandal, Spitzer being then governor of New York, hit the headlines, commentators contrasted the end-results: Spitzer resigned while Vitter stayed on. In response, Jeff Crouere, a New Orleans conservative political commentator, called on Vitter to resign saying he was an ineffective representative and reflected poorly on the state. Other local political figures differed with Crouere. Democratic political consultant James Carville said the two cases were entirely different: Spitzer's situation developed from an active investigation and as a former prosecutor and governor he had powerful enemies. In contrast, Carville described Vitter as "Louisiana’s junior senator and nobody really knows him or cares that much about him," but concluded that, "if they paid with their own money, I don’t think either one should resign." The Louisiana Republican governor Bobby Jindal said, "Senator Vitter has already addressed this.... The people of New York can deal with the Governor of New York.” Additionally, one gauge of the scandal's impact, local fundraising, indicated that Vitter has weathered the controversy well: first quarter 2008 finance reports show that he made, according to The Times-Picayune, an "impressive haul". Another gauge, voter approval, indicates Vitter is, , still popular with Louisiana voters.

Vitter once again received unwanted attention after Palfrey's suicide in May 2008.

Following the June 2009 admission of Nevadamarker Senator John Ensign that he had an affair with an employee of his Senate office, the Louisiana Democratic Party called on Senator Vitter to resign his leadership position (as a deputy whip) in the Senate, arguing that, because Ensign had resigned his position as Republican Policy Committee Chairman of the United States Senate, Vitter should do the same.

Political actions and positions

Illegal immigration

Vitter has been actively involved with legislation concerning illegal immigrants. In June 2007, he led a group of conservative Senators in blocking the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 that would have granted legal status to 12 million undocumented workers coupled with increased border enforcement. The bill's defeat won Vitter national attention as the bill was supported by President George W. Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy, among others. Vitter characterized the bill as amnesty, which supporters denied. Bush accused the bill's opponents of fear mongering.

In October 2007, Vitter introduced an amendment withholding Community Oriented Policing Services funds from any sanctuary city which bans city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status in violation of the Illegal Immigration Act. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in opposition to the amendment, said these cities do not want to inquire about someone's status if they report a crime, are a victim of domestic violence or get vaccinations for their children. The amendment was defeated.

In November 2007, Vitter introduced a bill requiring banks to confirm that customers were not illegal immigrants before providing them with banking or credit cards. The bill never made it out of committee.

In March 2008, Vitter reintroduced the latter two proposals and cosponsored ten of eleven other bills in a Republican package of tough immigration enforcement measures including jail time for illegal border crossing, deportation for any immigrant (legal or illegal) for a single driving while intoxicated, declaration of English as the official language (thereby terminating language assistance at voting booths and federal agencies), additional construction of a border fence, permission for local and state police to enforce immigration laws and penalties for states who issue drivers licenses to illegals. None of these proposals passed partially because the Democratic-controlled Senate preferred a comprehensive approach which would include a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for the current population more akin to the package defeated by Vitter in 2007.

In April 2008, Vitter introduced a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that a child born in the United States is not a citizen unless a parent is a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien serving in the military. Currently the Constitution grants citizenship to children born within the U.S. regardless of the legal status of the parents. The bill never made it out of committee.

Gulf Coast recovery

Hurricane Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter and the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation worked to bring aid to the Gulf Coast region to rebuild broken levees, schools and hospitals, restore coastal wetlands, and provide assistance for its many victims.

In early September, Vitter said that he would give "the entire big government organized relief effort a failing grade, across the board." He said that state and local governments shared in the blame as well. Vitter's actions during Hurricane Katrina are described in historian Douglas Brinkley's May 2006 book, The Great Deluge.

In September 2007, Vitter announced that he got "a critical concession" from the White House that decreased Louisiana's obligations for hurricane recovery by $1 billion. However, the White House said that was false.

Federal Water Bill

Vitter helped write the Water Resources and Development Act for flood-control, hurricane-protection and coastal-restoration projects including $3.6 billion for Louisiana. He called it the "single most important" legislation for assisting Louisiana with its recovery from hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush vetoed the act, objecting to its cost. Congress overrode his veto, enacting the bill.

New Orleans public housing

In September 2007, The Times-Picayune reported that Vitter and the Bush administration opposed a provision of The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery bill which required that every public housing apartment torn down be replaced with another form of low-income housing on a one-for-one basis. The administration testified that there was not sufficient demand for public housing units, a position contested by several senators. Vitter stated it would recreate "housing projects exactly as they were", isolated and riddled with crime. However, Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democratic Senator, said the intent was to make certain there were affordable places for working-class people who returned. The bill requires that demolished housing projects be replaced with mixed income communities which local housing advocates say is different from the massive public housing developments that Vitter is referring to. However, the bill does not include a ban on large-scale projects. The city housing authority is planning on replacing 4,000 low-income units with mixed-income projects providing a smaller inventory of low-income units. In November 2007, more than two dozen political action, faith-based and human rights organizations delivered a petition with more than 130,000 signatures asking that Vitter reconsider his position. In December 2007, Vitter killed the bill in committee. Some housing advocates charge that Vitter is stalling the bill in order to keep Landrieu from claiming a legislative victory one year in advance of her reelection, a charge Vitter denies, saying Landrieu was refusing to negotiate.

Automotive Industry Bailout stance

Vitter was one of 35 Senators to vote against the Big 3 Bailout bill. The financial bailout package was for GM, Chrysler, and Ford but failed to pass on December 11, 2008. During the Senate debate Vitter referred to the approach of giving the automotive industry a financial package before they restructured as "ass-backwards". He soon apologized for the comment, which failed to appear in the Congressional Record.

Pro-life stance

Vitter has won praise from pro-life groups for his stance against abortion. In 2001, he co-authored legislation to restrict the number of physicians allowed to prescribe RU-486, a drug used in medical abortions. Vitter said, "The legislation is about protecting women's health" and criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for "hurriedly" approving the drug. Several Democratic politicians and pro-choice groups condemned the bill, characterizing Vitter as an "antichoice extremist". The bill died in committee.

In October 2007, Vitter introduced an amendment barring all funds to health care providers and Planned Parenthood that provide health services (such as contraceptives, Pap smears, breast exams and tests for STDs) in addition to abortions. Federal law bars any funding to directly finance abortions. Vitter argued that the funds are used for overhead costs that benefit the abortion services. The amendment failed to pass. Following the rejection, Vitter and others urgedthe Senate to pass a similar bill introduced by Vitter inJanuary 2007. The bill failed to pass.

In January 2008, Vitter proposed an amendment to prohibit the funding of abortions with Indian Health Service funds except in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the woman was at risk. The amendment would have held future presidential administrations to an executive principle first crafted in 1982 by the Ronald Reagan White House. Vitter's amendment passed the Senate but died in Congress.

Later that year, Vitter co-sponsored the Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act which required doctors performing abortions to have the authority granted by a nearby hospital to admit patients along with other oversight regulations. The bill was never reported to committee.

Gun politics

Rated A by the National Rifle Associationmarker, Vitter has been a consistent champion of gun rights. In April, 2006, in response to firearm confiscations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter was the Senate sponsor of the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, to prohibit federal funding for the confiscation of legally held firearms during a disaster. Later, Vitter included the provisions of the act in an amendment to an appropriation bill for the Department Of Homeland Securitymarker. The bill became law in September, 2006 with the amendment modified to allow for the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entering a rescue or evacuation vehicle.

In February 2008, Vitter, along with Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, blocked the confirmation of Michael J. Sullivan as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) saying Sullivan supports "burdensome regulations" on gun owners and dealers and is "overly aggressive" enforcing gun laws. An editorial writer for The Boston Globe wrote that Vitter's position was "unreasonable" because the guns Sullivan sought to control are those commonly used in crimes: those stolen or purchased on the black market. On the other hand, gun rights advocates say that many gun dealers have lost their licenses for harmless bureaucratic errors. Sullivan stayed on as acting head of the ATF until January 2009 to make way for President Barack Obama to name his own nominee.

Ethics reform and term limits

Vitter has argued for ethics reform and term limits since he was in the Louisiana Legislature in the early 1990s. As a Louisiana state legislator, Vitter successfully pushed through a term limits amendment to the state constitution to oust the largely Democratic legislature. The first election legislators were affected by the reform occurred in 2007. In order to leverage the term limits advantage in that election, Vitter formed a Political Action Committee with the goal of winning a legislative Republican majority. Although it was well-financed, Vitter's PAC may have suffered from his connection with prostitution. While the Republicans saw gains, the Democrats maintained majority control.

In spite of his state legislative efforts, Vitter refused to pledge to a voluntary term limit when running for the U.S. Congress in 1999, which his opponent characterized as hypocritical. Vitter countered that unless it was universally applied, the loss of seniority would disadvantage his district. As a Senator, he has proposed term limit constitutional amendments for members of Congress three times.

In 2007, in response to lobbying scandals involving, among others, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham, Congress passed a lobbying and ethics reform package to which Vitter proposed a package of five amendments. The Senate approved three that limited which legislators' spouses could lobby the Senate, created criminal penalties for legislators and executive branch officials who falsify financial reports, and doubled the penalties for lobbyists who failed to comply with disclosure requirements. The Senate rejected prohibiting legislators from paying their families with campaign funds with some saying it was unrelated to the current legislation and others that the payments were not a problem. Additionally, they tabled his proposal to define Indian tribes as corporations and its members as stockholders so that they are required to contribute to candidates through political action committees instead of their tribal treasury. Senators objected saying that they are already subjected to campaign laws for unincorporated entities and individuals and that the proposal was singling them out unfairly. The reform package became law in September 2007.

In 2009, Vitter and Democratic Senator Russ Feingold announced an effort to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress.

Children's health insurance program

In September 2007, Vitter opposed an increase of $35 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the national program to provide health care for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance. He said he preferred that private health insurance provide the needed care and deemed the bill as "Hillarycare", a reference to the 1993 Clinton health care plan created by Hillary Clinton which proposed universal health care. The increase passed the Senate, 67 to 29 but was later vetoed by President George W. Bush. The SCHIP increase was finally enacted, despite Vitter voting nay a third time, in February 2009.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

In September 2007, during hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vitter expressed serious doubts about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty concerning issues of U.S. sovereignty echoing an array of anti-UN conservative groups against the treaty including The National Center for Public Policy Research, the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Security Policy. The treaty, which sets up countries' jurisdiction over their coasts and ocean including exploration and navigation rights, is supported by the Bush administration, a majority of the United States Senate, the Pentagonmarker, the State Departmentmarker and Navy as do a coalition of business and environmental groups. The committee approved the treaty 17-4, with Vitter voting no.

Gambling

Ever since his days in the Louisiana State Legislature, Vitter has been a longtime foe of gambling. Beginning in 2002, Vitter opposed the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians' bid to build a casino in Louisiana, arguing that the build site was not historically part of their tribal lands. He lobbied the Interior Departmentmarker and included language in an appropriations bill to stop the casino. Although the Interior Department gave its approval, the casino has not yet been approved by the state. The Jena chief accused Vitter of ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who simultaneously lobbied against the casino. The chairman of the Senate committee investigating the lobbyist said, "The committee has seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Senator Vitter's opposition to (the proposed casino) had to do with anything other than his long-standing opposition to gambling." In 2007 and 2008, Vitter introduced a bill to prohibit Indian casinos such as Jena's. Neither bill became law.

Military

In May 2001, Vitter authored an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which required all secondary schools receiving federal funding to permit US military recruitment on school grounds and to provide the name, home phone number and address of every student enrolled to military recruiters, unless the student (or the student's parent) specifically opts out. In February 2007, Democratic Representative Michael M. Honda proposed the Student Privacy Protection Act of 2007 to change Vitter's amendment from requiring high schools to provide military recruiters with students' personal information unless they explicitly opt-out to requiring the student's explicit consent first. According to the Congressional Quarterly, Vitter stands behind the current provision. He stated, if changed, families who supported military recruiting may miss out if required to opt-in.

In May 2008, Vitter voted with the majority, despite Bush's and other conservative Republican's opposition, for the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 which expanded educational benefits for veterans similar to the level provided for returning World War II veterans in the G.I. Bill.

School board prayers

In 2005 Vitter introduced a resolution supporting prayer at school board meetings in response to an earlier district court decision that the Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish practice of opening meetings with Christian prayers was unconstitutional. The bill died in committee. Vitter later reintroduced the resolution in January 2007 after a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court concluded that Christian prayers were unconstitutional but was undecided whether nonsectarian prayers were allowed. In July 2007, the full Fifth Circuit dismissed the case because of a lack of standing. The school board subsequently resumed prayer evocations but opened it to diverse community religions. Vitter's bill died in committee.

Abstinence education

Vitter advocated abstinence-only sex education, emphasizing abstinence while excluding issues involving birth control and safe sex. He said, "Abstinence education is a public health strategy focused on risk avoidance that aims to help young people avoid exposure to harm...by teaching teenagers that saving sex until marriage and remaining faithful afterwards is the best choice for health and happiness." According to Focus on the Familymarker, Vitter was one of three conservative senators that convinced Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg to withdraw an amendment that would have restricted abstinence education to programs deemed to be "medically accurate".

Same-sex marriage

In 2003, Vitter proposed to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In 2004, he said, "This is a real outrage. The Hollywoodmarker left is redefining the most basic institution in human history...We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusettsmarker’s values." In June 2006, he said "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one ... I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress." In 2006, he told The Times-Picayune, “I’m a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history.”

In October 2005, at a Lafayette Parishmarker Republican Executive Committee luncheon, Vitter compared gay marriage to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which came through the same geographical areas. Vitter said "It's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita. I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

Louisiana Family Forum earmark

In September, 2007, Vitter earmarked $100,000 in federal money for a Christian group, the Louisiana Family Forum, known for challenging evolution by means of "teaching the controversy" which promotes intelligent design while discrediting evolution. According to Vitter, the earmark was "to develop a plan to promote better science education". Though the Louisiana Family Forum is largely forbidden from political activity due to its non-profit status, The Times-Picayune alleged the group had close ties with Vitter. However, they have criticized Vitter for his support of Rudy Giuliani.

On October 17, 2007, the liberal organization People For the American Way, along with several other groups asked the Senate to remove the earmark. Vitter later withdrew it.

Child protection

In April 2008, Vitter introduced an amendment to continue funding the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act which was excluded from the 2008/2009 budget. The federal program maintains a national sex offender registry, provides resources for tracking down unregistered sex offenders and increases penalties for the sexual assault of children. His amendment received bipartisan support.

Republican Party reputation

With concerns being raised about the Republican Party's prospects in the 2008 election, Vitter said, "It's certainly true that national Republicans need to improve their brand. Perhaps folks should actually take some cues from Republicans in Louisiana. At home, we're the party of reform and positive changes versus failed past and the good ol' boys."

Tea Parties

In recognition of the Tea Party protests protesting President Barack Obama's policies, Vitter proposed Senate Resolution 98, which would designate April 15 in years both 2009 and 2010 as "National TEA Party Day". As of April 2009, the bill has no cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary with no scheduled action.

Obama nominations

Vitter and Jim DeMint were the only two Senators that voted against Hillary Clinton's confirmation for the position of Secretary of State under the new Obama administration, on January 21, 2009.

Vitter blocked Obama's nominee for the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator until he received a written commitment on flood control issues from the nominee and FEMA. The New York Times, along with fellow Republican Senators, criticized Vitter for what it characterized as political posturing, given that the hurricane season was quickly approaching. He lifted his hold on May 12, 2009.

Network neutrality

Vitter was one of six senate Republicans to propose an amendment to a bill which would stop the FCC from enforcing network neutrality.

Opposition to Franken amendment

In October 2009, the Senate passed Democratic Senator Al Franken's amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would forbid federal contractors from forcing victims of sexual assault, battery and discrimination to submit to binding arbitration (where a third-party typically chosen by the contractor adjudicates) and thereby prohibiting them from going to court. The impetus for the amendment came from the story of Jamie Leigh Jones who was drugged and gang-raped by employees of Halliburton/KBR, a federal contractor.

The amendment passed 68 to 30 with all opposition coming from Republicans including Vitter (all four female Republicans, six other Republicans and all present Democrats voted for passage). Vitter's 2010 Democratic Senatorial opponent Charlie Melancon criticized Vitter for his vote saying, "David Vitter has refused to explain why he voted to allow taxpayer-funded companies to sweep rape charges under the rug. We can only guess what his reasons were." While an Opelousas, Louisianamarker newspaper editorial ridiculed Melancon for that claim, it proceeded to praise the Senators who passed the amendment. However, The Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker argued that the 30 senators were being "unfairly smeared for doing the harder thing, maybe even for the right reasons."

Republican senators said they voted against it because it was unenforceable, a position also taken by the Department of Defensemarker (DOD) and the Barack Obama White House. However, the DOD and the White House stated they agreed with the intent of the legislation and suggested it would be better if it was broadened to prohibit the use of arbitration in cases of sexual assault for any business contract, not just federal contractors. Senators explained their vote against the legislation by saying it was a political attack on Halliburton and that the Senate shouldn't regulate contracts. The latter argument is countered with many examples of similar restrictions on contractors such as discrimination, bonuses and health care. Others felt it was unconstitutional and that arbitration is useful in resolving disputes, often faster, private and cheaper.

Later, a Baton Rougemarker rape survivor confronted Vitter at a town hall meeting saying, "[it] meant everything to me that I was able to put the person who attacked me behind bars ... How can you support a law that tells a rape victim that she does not have the right to defend herself?" Vitter replied, "The language in question did not say that in any way shape or form." The woman acknowledged that she coordinated the confrontation with local Democrats. The incident was a popular Youtube video.

Electoral history

2004 Louisiana United States Senatorial Election
David Vitter (R) 51%
Chris John (D) 29%
John Neely Kennedy (D) 15%
Arthur Morrell (D) 3%
Richard Fontanesi (I) 1%
R.A. Galan (I) 1%
Sam Melton (D) 1%


1999 Louisiana 1st District United States Congressional Election
David Vitter (R) 51%
David C. Treen (R) 49%


Footnotes

External links






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