David Vitter has another unseemly obsession

GOP senator with the busy extracurricular life is now fixated on harassing Hill staffers over their health plans

Published November 15, 2013 5:38PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Sean Gardner)
(Reuters/Sean Gardner)

What is Sen. David Vitter's life like these days? Well, we shouldn't ask too many questions, lest they have too many answers. At least in his professional life, Vitter is back to doing what he always does, which is holding up basic legislative business over some chickenshit gimmick about nothing.

When the word "Vitter" was last all over the news, it was during the shutdown, when the "Vitter Amendment" was considered a bargaining chip in funding/debt ceiling negotiations. Known unofficially as the Screw Over Your Staffers Because It Polls Decently Act, Vitter's amendment would have stripped workaround employer subsidies for congressmen and their staffs buying insurance on the health exchanges.

Most of the old congressmen with diabetes and cancer and like 20 kinds of gross brown/gray skin lesions didn't care for this, and neither did their staffers making $30,000 a year, so it wasn't included in the final deal to reopen the government. It did get every staffer on Capitol Hill who didn't already hate David Vitter to hate him a lot, though. Come on, guy! You can't just purchase respect at an hourly rate from everyone. You have to earn it.

And he has no intention of earning any respect, or having any dignity, any time soon. This week, Vitter denied unanimous consent on some supposedly noncontroversial pharmaceutical tweak, and delayed consideration of the annual defense authorization bill. He has a new amendment, see, related to the ongoing historic scandal of Hill staffers getting health insurance with help from their employer. From National Journal:

Vitter now has turned to what he calls “exempted” staff. He wants to know the congressional staffers who, by a quirk of the regulations, can remain on their current federal insurance plans. ACA rules say that only “official” congressional staffers are required to get their insurance on the health exchanges. That wording creates a loophole: If a member of Congress designates a staffer “unofficial,” that person can keep his or her federal plan. Vitter wants those designations to be made public.

Jesus Christ. He now demands a public list of individual Hill staffers who have insurance through their employer. (And let's be clear, I'm all about members of Congress doing whatever the hell they have to do to keep their staffers insured, given the stupidity of the Grassley amendment that led to all this.)

Harry Reid is trying to make some sort of deal with this child so he can get his vote TO EXPOSE OUR GREATEST ENEMY, THE INSURED HILL STAFFERS, pat himself on the back, and go away.

Reid has told Vitter he can have a vote on his amendment if he agrees never to bring it up again. Vitter thinks that’s an unfair condition, particularly if the amendment passes and then gets stripped out later. That wouldn’t be a problem on the drug-compounding bill, which has already passed the House, but it could happen during the conference committee on the defense authorization bill. “That’s a fool’s agreement,” Vitter said on the Senate floor. “I need to be able to protect my rights.”

What is it about untalented people pushing for measures that are solely about pandering to their bases going on about "rights"? Sure, it is your "right" to hold up Senate business over a chickenshit gimmick, but you're not exactly honoring the concept of "rights" by doing so. And besides, we just lied: It's not your "right." It's just something that the Senate rules allow you to do right now because they haven't been updated for the modern era in which people like David Vitter are senators.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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Capitol Hill David Vitter Harry Reid Healthcare Reform Hill Staff Obamacare U.s. Senate