Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 22, 2014

David Vitter’s Proud of, Well, Um …?

David Vitter’s Proud of, Well, Um ...?

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter didn’t need another week of self-reflection after his latest dustup with the Senate Ethics Committee.

The Louisiana Republican boasted in a press release that his effort to block a salary increase for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had been “validated” by a panel announcement that it had dismissed an inquiry into whether the move was appropriate.

HOH wonders whether it read the same letter as Vitter.

“Your actions to block restoration legislation appear to be unprecedented,” Senate Ethics Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and vice chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) admonished in the March 29 letter, which dismissed the case because no existing rule dealt with the issue.

However, the letter said, “It is inappropriate to condition support for a Secretary’s personal salary increase directly on his or her performance of a specific official act.”

The committee reiterated its position in a letter to Senators that day, saying similar efforts “will be viewed by the Committee as improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate.”

Call it the “Vitter Rule.”

The ethical to-do began when Vitter said he would block legislation to raise Salazar’s salary by $19,600 unless he began issuing more deep-water drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. In a letter to Salazar last May, Vitter demanded the rate of permits issued reach the pace that existed before the Obama administration imposed a moratorium on offshore drilling after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or six per month.

Though the moratorium was lifted, Vitter said Salazar was issuing permits at half the rate the department was before the spill.

Salazar asked that the legislation be withdrawn and continues to make less than other Cabinet secretaries.

Vitter said he didn’t regret his actions and would do it again.

“I’m glad that I killed Ken Salazar’s pay increase. … And I’ll absolutely place a hold on any raise for him in the future,” Vitter said in his release.

“The ethics committee letter doesn’t say that a Senator is prohibited from blocking legislation to increase a Secretary’s pay does it?” Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar asked in an email.

No, it didn’t. It did, however, state that a quid pro quo “undermines a basic principle of government service.”

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