Vitter Seeks Ethics Investigation of Reid, Boxer Over Amendment

Friday, 13 Sep 2013 05:07 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Sen. David Vitter is asking for an ethics probe of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer — pushing back after legislation was floated to block the Louisiana Republican from getting Obamacare health benefits because of a 2007 scandal.

In a scathing letter Friday, Vitter accused Reid (D-Nev.) and Boxer (D-Calif.), the chair of the Ethics Committee, of trying to influence his vote by intimidation and bribery, Roll Call reported.

An increasingly bitter dustup pits the conservative Vitter, who’s backing an amendment to repeal federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ Obamacare coverage, against Senate Democrats.

In response to the Vitter amendment, Politico reported Democrats floated one of their own that would target him – and resurrect a 2007 scandal in which he was identified as a client of an escort service.

The Democratic amendment would deny government contributions to lawmakers if the Ethics Committee determines there’s "probable cause" the official "engaged in the solicitation of prostitution."

"Harry Reid is acting like an old-time Vegas mafia thug, and a desperate one at that," Vitter said in a statement to Politico on Thursday. "This just shows how far Washington insiders will go to protect their special Obamacare exemption."

Vitter admitted to a "serious sin" but never admitted being a client of so-called D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, though his phone number was linked to her in the investigation. Because the alleged solicitation took place before Vitter arrived in the Senate, the Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against him in 2008.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in a statement at the time. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

On Friday, Vitter responded angrily to the floated Democratic amendments – which also included a possible denial of health benefits coverage to lawmakers who vote for the Vitter plan even if it doesn’t become law, Politico reported.

"Such an arrangement, whereby the Senate Majority Leader and the Chair of this Committee are threatening to take away their colleagues’ healthcare coverage subsidy if they do not vote a certain way, at worst constitutes bribery and a quid pro quo arrangement, and at best amounts to improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate," he wrote to the Ethics Committee.

"I respectfully request that the Senate Select Committee on Ethics investigate whether Senator Harry Reid, Senator Barbara Boxer, and their respective staffs violated the Committee’s Rules by proposing and circulating through the press legislation that ties Members’ personal healthcare benefits to their performance of specific acts and votes. This is attempted bribery, and the exact sort of behavior that the Senate Ethics Committee has previously condemned."

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