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|Doing the right thing earns Vitter few friends|
Back in the 1990s when David Vitter was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, he often got under the skin of his colleagues.
In those days, Vitter was prone to state bluntly that the so-called good old boy network in Louisiana was hindering the state's prospects for growth. His remarks earned him few friends. In fact, Vitter earned quite a few enemies because of his comments.
Apparently not much has changed for Vitter, a Republican from Metairie who now represents Louisiana in the U.S. Senate. At least that much was evident last week when Vitter attempted to amend a $410 billion spending bill the Senate was considering. He wanted to include a provision that would force members of the Congress to vote on whether to accept an automatic cost-of-living pay raise. It's a practice Congress has employed for 20 years to raise its pay void of having to subject itself to public scrutiny.
The cost-of-living pay hike Congress received for 2009 raised member salaries to roughly $174,000 per year. The pay raise was included in legislation in which automatic cost-of-living pay hikes were approved for all government employees, including members of the Congress. It was an up-or-down vote on the entire package.
Vitter, though, wanted the Senate to vote separately on congressional pay raises. Obviously, he felt the $410 billion spending bill under consideration in the Senate was an ideal opportunity to introduce his pay raise amendment.
It was a non-starter from the get-go, though, meaning Vitter knew well that his congressional pay raise amendment, if approved, would have killed the $410 billion spending bill. That was the case because the congressional leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives said it would not revisit the spending bill if the Senate amended it in any form or fashion. In other words, if the Vitter amendment had passed, the $410 billion spending bill was doomed for failure.
In the bowels of the U.S. Capitol, the line in the sand the House leadership drew represented an invitation to do battle. It also represented an invitation to introduce an amendment that's certain to garner the public's attention or amend legislation to a point that makes it unacceptable in some corners.
Though Vitter knew his efforts to force the Congress to shoot straight with the people on the congressional pay issue would go nowhere, he was dead right to bring the matter to a head. He was dead right as well when he said, "The autopilot pay raise really is offensive to the American people."
It is offensive, especially in these economic times in which people across the country are losing their jobs and their homes and their retirement savings.
Yet, one day after Vitter's amendment to force the Senate to vote separately on congressional pay raises was rejected, a columnist at The Washington Post opined in so many words that Vitter acted in a self-serving manner. He said it appeared Vitter's amendment was intended to help cover up the senator's past personal problems. The columnist also suggested Vitter's amendment had more to do with the senator's objection to the $410 billion spending bill than it had to do with reigning in compensation for members of the Congress.
Then the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee led an effort to convince the so-called mainstream media to report on an incident involving Vitter at an airport in the Washington area. According to some reports, Vitter berated an airline employee because he missed a flight to New Orleans. An investigation is under way to determine if Vitter acted inappropriately.
All of that, my friends, is what we call a concerted effort to "shoot the messenger," so to speak, when the messenger delivers a message that does not sit well with the status quo or the political party that could be painted in a negative light because of the messenger's message. Make not mistake, The Washington Post crawled in bed with the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in the Congress long ago.
As far as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is concerned, well, Vitter will stand for re-election in 2010. All is fair in love and war.
In the meantime, Vitter should be encouraged to continue raising the congressional pay raise issue. He should raise it and raise Cain about it until the Congress develops enough backbone to end its underhanded, bad habit of granting itself a fat pay raise at the expense of the taxpayers.