Washington Briefs: Vitter to help uninsured

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., may be an opponent of the Affordable Care Act health care law, but he said he’s still going to do everything he can to help people without insurance enroll in the health-care exchanges beginning Oct. 1.

At a recent town-hall event in Hammond, Vitter told the local television station his office is doing what it can to inform constituents about Obamacare, as he continues to try to repeal the law, threatening a government shutdown.

“There’s not good guidance out there, so a lot of folks are really feeling vulnerable in limbo,” Vitter said at the event. “We field calls every day in my offices in Louisiana trying to help people with individual questions and circumstances, and I would encourage folks to call our office to try to get that guidance and help.”

Landrieu files bill

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who chairs the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, filed a bill just before the congressional recess that is aimed at boosting training and counseling efforts for entrepreneurs who are at least 50 years old.

The bill would provide additional funding for workshops, conferences and mentoring programs, webinars, and free online courses for the so-called “encore entrepreneurs.” Research has shown that encore entrepreneurs are in a strategic growth area of the economy, according to Landrieu.

“Encore entrepreneurs will play an important role in the coming years in spurring economic growth and creating jobs,” Landrieu said in the announcement. “These are seasoned professionals who have been leaders in their fields and can leverage this experience into starting or growing small businesses.”

Landrieu has partnerships on the legislation with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the AARP.

Landrieu’s Empowering Encore Entrepreneurs, or “E3,” Act would increase funding for more online training programs, more in-person training and counseling events, and require a report to Congress on the unique barriers and obstacles faced by encore entrepreneurs in starting or expanding businesses.

Vitter praises Obama

In a rare moment siding with President Barack Obama, Vitter praised the president’s decision to cancel his trip to Moscow.

Apart from the controversy over Russia granting asylum to Nation Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Vitter also cited the lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control with Russia.

“The president’s decision to cancel his trip to Russia is the right one because they are clearly at odds with us on so many key issues,” Vitter said.

“For this same reason, the president must rethink his push to significantly reduce our nuclear arsenal, which would erode our deterrence with dangerous threats in the world only multiplying.”

Vitter and 18 other senators sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter requesting an outline of the administration’s plans to carry out their proposed nuclear deterrent capability cuts of up to one-third of current capacity if Russia agreed to do the same.

The letter also expressed the need to involve congressional approval in any such decisions.

The senators cited concerns about Russia’s apparent disregard of the U.S.’s existing agreements.

Additionally, last week Vitter and 13 other senators urged the Department of Defense to stop doing business with a Russian arms firm that is allegedly helping Syrian President Bashar Assad kill his own people.

Town hall meetings

Vitter will host a town-hall meeting on Thursday in Baton Rouge.

The event is from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek Road.

Looking further ahead, Vitter will have town halls on Aug. 19 in Beauregard and Sabine parishes.

The first event is from 11 a.m. to noon at the Beauregard Parish Police Jury office, 201 W. Second St., DeRidder. The Sabine Parish event is from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Zwolle City Hall, 952 S. Main St.

After visiting northern Louisiana, Vitter will have a town hall in Chalmette from noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 22 at the St. Bernard Parish Council Chambers, 8201 W. Judge Perez Drive.

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com