Vitter Returns, With Coburn at His Side
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) finally returned to the Capitol this morning, eight days after fleeing his senatorial duties amid revelations that he had committed a "very serious sin" involving an escort service in Washington.
With Vitter in attendance, photographers, television cameras and print reporters packed packing an otherwise not-very-newsworthy hearing on rural air services before a Senate subcommittee. As he did after his public statement in Louisiana with his wife, Wendy, on Monday, Vitter declined to answer any questions about what he did or didn't do with the escort service or whether he broke any prostitution laws while serving in the U.S. House from 1999 through 2004. (Vitter has said his "very serious sin" did not occur while he was a member of the Senate, which he joined in January 2005.)
By midday he was ushered into the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon by the staunchest social conservative in the chamber, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), using a backdoor that rank-and-file members rarely use to enter the stately Mansfield Room.
Inside the GOP lunch, staff was cleared out at one point for Vitter to address his colleagues, a several minute span which was capped with a round of applause. (Audible to reporters outside the room, it was unclear whether the applause was generated by something Vitter said or something someone else said in support of the lawmaker.)
"I think there was a general acceptance of what he said," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said, declining any other comment - as most senators did - about Vitter's closed-door statement to his colleagues.
Shortly before 2 p.m., Vitter and Coburn exited the back door again, brushing off questions and heading into the Senate chamber. By 2:52 p.m., during a roll-call on another amendment regarding the Iraq war on the defense authorization legislation, the clerk belted out "Mr. Vitter" and for the first time since the 5:43 p.m. vote on July 9, Vitter was present and accounted for; he voted "aye", supporting his conservative colleague Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).
July 17, 2007; 3:10 PM ET
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