The Senate Small Business Committee held an interesting vote a few weeks ago, which didn’t generate much attention at the time. The proposal came by way of committee Chairman David Vitter (R-La.), who wanted to subpoena documents from the D.C. insurance marketplace, because the far-right senator suspected some in Congress had circumvented Affordable Care Act rules.
From a distance, it seemed like the sort of vote that would go Vitter’s way. The committee enjoys a Republican majority; GOP senators hate “Obamacare”; and the committee’s chairman had made clear how important the issue is to him personally.
But it lost on a 14-to-4 vote. Vitter’s office had told reporters in advance that all of the Republican members on the panel would vote for the subpoena, but in the end, 5 of the committee’s 10 GOP senators sided with Democrats and killed Vitter’s gambit.
How’d that happen? Politico reports today that the Louisiana Republican appears to have lost the support of his ostensible allies – they just don’t seem to like the guy very much.
Within the chummy confines of the U.S. Senate, Vitter has emerged as one of the most disliked members. The second-term senator’s effort to kill the federal health care contribution, worth several thousand dollars to lawmakers and their staffers, is a big part of it.But the two-year drive, his critics say, symbolizes an operating style that Vitter’s critics complain is consumed with public relations, even for an ambitious member of Congress: speeding in and out of meetings, railing about issues on the Senate floor but doing little to execute behind the scenes, firing off news releases left and right. In an institution in which the inside game is critical, Vitter doesn’t even pretend to bother with it.
Senate Republicans’ low esteem for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is pretty well known, but Vitter clearly isn’t winning any popularity contests, either. The Louisiana Republican has, for whatever reason, made it one of his top priorities to require Capitol Hill staff to pay more for health insurance.
Even GOP senators are getting tired of it – and they’re willing to say so on the record.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was willing to tell Politico, for example, that Vitter’s arguments on the health care issue are “disingenuous.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added, “Virtually all large employers subsidize the health insurance of their employees, and I don’t see a basis for taking away the standard employer contribution to health insurance benefits for members of Congress or their staffs. It’s that simple.”
When Vitter ran into some prostitution trouble a few years back, his GOP colleagues stood by him, the senator’s brazen hypocrisy notwithstanding. But in the years since, it seems the senator’s standing has faltered.
Louisiana’s gubernatorial race is this year and polling suggests Vitter is well positioned to leave Capitol Hill and succeed Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in Baton Rouge. I’m curious to know, though, just how many of Vitter’s colleagues will be sorry to see him go.