WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democrats are threatening to bring up Sen. David Vitter’s past in response to the Louisiana Republican senator holding legislation hostage
Vitter is stalling legislations from progressing until he receives a vote on his proposal to require that members of Congress, their staffs and the president have to acquire their health insurance through exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act without receiving federal employee benefits.
Politico, a Washington, D.C. web-based publication focused on government news, first reported that the Democratic leadership has drawn up draft legislation that would bring up Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal in which he admitted to committing a “serious sin.”
The draft legislation, according to Politico, would deny lawmakers their health care government contributions, if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.
Vitter responded by criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for reportedly floating the measure. Vitter then requested a Senate ethics investigation into Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“Harry Reid is acting like an old-time Vegas mafia thug, and a desperate one at that,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “This just shows how far Washington insiders will go to protect their special Obamacare exemption.”
Vitter sent a letter on Friday to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics asking that Reid and Boxer be investigated for tying legislation to a specific senator’s actions or votes. “This is attempted bribery, and the exact sort of behavior that the Senate Ethics Committee has previously condemned,” Vitter wrote.
“Senator Vitter has manufactured a bizarre and phony attack that demeans the Senate,” Boxer said.
This week, Vitter has blocked a Senate energy bill from progressing until he gets a vote on his “Obamacare” proposal. He said he will continue do the same on all Senate legislation this month until he gets a Senate floor vote on his plan.
Thus far, Democrats have objected to Vitter having a vote on his health care amendment attached to an energy bill, arguing that it is not germane, or related, to the legislation at hand. Vitter also has not made any progress on his requests for a vote on his proposal as a standalone bill. He specifically requested a vote on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t have to be on this (energy) bill,” Vitter said. “It does have to be in the near future.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., unsuccessfully urged Vitter to back down.
“Do not hold this energy bill hostage for something else,” Widen said. “I am willing to work with the senator on these health care measures.”
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., called it “disappointing” that Vitter is blocking a bipartisan energy and jobs bill because of an “entirely unrelated” issue.
The Affordable Care Act originally was written to require that congressional members and their staffs get their insurance through the exchanges. But a federal rule issued last month made it optional for lawmakers and their employees to continue receiving the subsidized premium health benefits plans just like most large businesses.
Members of Congress and applicable congressional staff will not be eligible for premium tax credits for exchange plans, but the proposed rule clarifies that the participants will continue to have an employer contribution toward their health insurance premiums, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Vitter said earlier this week that it is “outrageous” for lawmakers and congressional staffers to not have to participate in the “Obamacare” law that Congress and President Barack Obama created. Vitter contended that the Obama administration was pressured by congressional leaders — Democrats and Republicans — to offer exceptions.
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