Vitter's response: "You can look back. You can continue to write stories in the media about it. That's your decision. It's a free county. I looked the voters of Louisiana in the eye. I spoke to them sincerely. I think they heard me and I think they understood me. And now I'm looking forward, I'm not looking back." The panelist and moderator followed up, asking Vitter the question again: "Did you break the law? Yes or No." Vitter repeated his staid response. After the debate, Vitter was swarmed by reporters on his way out, who again peppered him with the question of whether he broke the law.
Vitter called the charge "a complete misrepresentation of my record," and said he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 because he thought it was a sop to plaintiff's lawyers. "Quite frankly it's a trial lawyer bonanza," Vitter said.
Vitter, whose phone number was found in the logs of a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring in 2007, said family remains the "greatest strength" his life, and that the D.C. Madam episode "redoubled my focus on living true to those commitments."
"Obviously I've stumbled in my marriage. Obviously I've committed serious sins that I've talked about in my past," Vitter said.
Melancon said Vitter's questionable character helped motivate him and others to get in the race against the incumbent. "It's about honesty and integrity in Washington and that is one of the key ingredients and the reason why I think everyone got in this race to challenge Mr. Vitter," Melancon said.
Melancon took the opportunity to set themselves apart from Vitter and his values. "It's the family unit that brings us all together... It's about honesty and integrity in Washington," Melancon said.
There were no other direct references to the call-girl issue at the forum, though Melancon has run attack ads seeking to remind voters of the controversy.
Melancon said he supports extending the tax cuts for middle-income earners but allowing rates to increase on the wealthiest taxpayers. "Every one of us wants to extend the present tax rates... except one candidate, Charlie Melancon," Vitter said.
The candidates were less sure of themselves when asked for specifics on what federal spending they would seek to offset the tax cuts with corresponding cuts to spending. Vitter did not offer any suggestions for what he would cut, while Melancon suggested that Congress should take its cue from a government report that details which federal programs and agencies are "not giving bang for the buck."
Senator Vitter responded, calling their differing views on health care "a big, honest disagreement between us, I fought 'ObamaCare,' I'm still fighting it," he said.
Vitter criticized the measure as wasteful spending. Today, unemployment stands at 10 percent with about 80 percent of the stimulus money dedicated. "It immediately increased spending and debt," Vitter said. "At the same time, I didn't think it would lead to significant job creation."
At every turn, Vitter tried to thwart the program. He introduced legislation aimed at blocking the use of $250 billion of the TARP money, which was approved in two installments. He called for any money returned to the federal government by the institutions taking part in the program to be dedicated to reducing the federal deficit instead of supporting further spending. Vitter also wanted an ending date for the program. "It played out to do what I feared, to expand the power and the role of the federal government," Vitter said.
Vitter's proposed measures did not pass. The government has received most of its money back.
Melancon is a former small businessman, having operated an insurance agency and several ice cream stores. "I had to worry about making payroll and staying in business and creating jobs," Melancon said.
Vitter didn't vote on the measure, saying his absence was equal to a "no" vote. The bill passed.
Vitter, who sits on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, joined fellow Republicans in calling the measure another government bailout that would do little to stimulate small business and didn't provide enough tax breaks.
Vitter prides himself on pressuring federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to move on flood-prevention projects.
Melancon said the plan costs too much and does little for middle-class Louisiana families.
Vitter likewise opposed the measure, saying it would inject the government into decisions that should be left to doctors and their patients.
Vitter also worked across the aisle with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to prevent insurance companies from denying women mammograms. A government medical task force recommended that women in their 40s do not routinely need mammograms.
Melancon voted for the measure, trying to debunk claims by opponents that it would amount to government-run insurance, health care for illegal immigrants or coverage for high-income families. "Making sure children have health insurance is not only the right thing to do, it's also much more cost-effective for taxpayers than leaving them uninsured and using the emergency room as a primary-care provider," Melancon said.
Vitter opposed the bill, saying it was disproportionately skewed toward states such as New York, which has higher incomes for eligibility than Louisiana, he said. In New York, the program's cutoff for a family of four is $88,200. Louisiana taxpayers shouldn't subsidize those states, Vitter said. "It just makes no sense to me," he said.
Many in the Hispanic community are calling it demeaning, dehumanizing, and degrading. Those in attendance are particularly angry that the Senator has targeted one group of people. ABC26 News called Vitter's campaign, but no one has responded.
The above quotations are from 2010 Louisiana Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Louisiana Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts by David Vitter.
Click here for a profile of David Vitter.
David Vitter on other issues:
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