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Vitter in the morning

The news out of the Senate in yesterday’s long day’s journey into night, and then into morning again, was that the parliamentarian had found 16 lines in the health-reform reconciliation bill that he had to strike out, which meant that after the Senate finally voted on the bill – something that is supposed to happen this afternoon – it must be bounced back to the House for one more, in this case presumably pro forma, vote.

But that wasn’t my main takeaway from last night’s proceedings, which I viewed sporadically on C-SPAN. I say sporadically because it was Ginger Rogers night on Turner Classic Movies last night -- a lot of great old non-Astaire 1930s RKO comedies. While channel surfing in the intervals between films, I would drop in on the Senate, where the Republicans were presenting a series of amendments to the reconciliation bill, each one sillier than the last.

A number of GOP amendments called for restoring funding to popular programs – something, as every senator knows, that cannot be done under reconciliation bills, which are restricted to measures that diminish, not add to, the deficit. Each time the Republicans introduced such a measure, the Democrats would raise a point of order that the measure violated the statute that defined reconciliation, the Republicans would move to suspend that statute, and the Democrats, being in the majority, would vote it down. Apparently, Republicans were hoping that one just one time, somehow, they would catch the Democrats napping so that they could amend the bill and force it back to the House for another vote. (This was before the parliamentarian announced his discovery of the 16 offending lines.)

This is Republican statecraft, c. 2010.

The high point of my mid-evening non-Ginger viewing came when Louisiana Republican David Vitter offered an amendment to repeal the health-reform act that President Obama had signed into law the previous day. All the senators present, not surprisingly, voted exactly as they had voted when they enacted the bill last December – all Democrats voting against Vitter, all Republicans voting for. We had reached, I naively assumed, the reductio ad absurdum of Republican legislating.

But two Ginger Rogers movies later, the Republicans were still at it. Only this time (around 2:30 a.m.), they, and the Democrats, were all a little woozy. The Democrats dispatched yet another amendment, and then Vitter rose again to propose still one more – this one to exempt mobile mammography units from the federal gas tax (again, a measure clearly not permitted under reconciliation). But the members were yacking (or for all I know, snoring), and Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, the senator presiding at the time, had to interrupt Vitter to call the Senate to order. Vitter stopped, then started again, and Brown stopped him again in hopes of getting a modicum of silence.

The result of this start-stop-start process was that Vitter bellowed the words “mobile mammography unit” several times, then fell silent. My bad, I’m sure, but about the third time this happened, I was struck by the thought that Vitter had been something of a mobile mammography unit himself, once upon a time, until he was discovered and repented his evil ways.

Which is why the Senate shouldn’t be in session past 2 in the morning.

Ginger, by the way, was great.

By Harold Meyerson  | March 25, 2010; 8:48 AM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Next: A return to hyperpartisanship


Just think: In spite of having committed a "serious sin"--since then entirely stonewalled--this great defender of family and morality, this great statesman David Vitter is likely to be re-elected to the senate in Louisiana without difficulty.

Posted by: cm06acf | March 25, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"Diapers" Vitter is a piece of crap.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | March 25, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Vitter should be renamed 'John' by Senate decree.

Posted by: twstroud | March 25, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Next time, Meyerson, just stick with Ginger...much more enjoyable and makes more sense.

Posted by: Kansas28 | March 25, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The GOP has lost it. Completely.

A hypocrite like Vitter carrying on in his infantile way, as he is apt to do (although usually behind closed doors for a smaller, paid for audience) passes for leadership in todays's GOP.

Posted by: toc59 | March 25, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Hilarious. Too bad they could have been actually working on something that would save us money, like fiscal regulations.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 25, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone can introduce the "No Federally Funded Diapers for Vitter" amendment.

Posted by: jaysit | March 25, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the article....BUT... as an 80 year-old, I don't understand how anyone who actually remembers Ginger Rogers could break away from ANY of her non-Astaire movies?

Posted by: lufrank1 | March 25, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Every time I hear David Vitter's name mentioned it brings to my mind one of the chief differences between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to morals and ethics. Both parties consist of individual human beings, each beset with his own set of strengths and weaknesses, each occasionally subjected to temptation, each sometimes yielding to impulses that result in inappropriate, wrong, and even illegal behavior.

But whenever a Democrat gets caught, he gets kicked out of whatever position of power he holds within only a couple of days, never surviving as much as a whole week, and the Democratic leadership is quick to act to limit the influence of the individual who has proven himself too weak to resist whatever temptation might have ensnared him.

On the other hand, when a Republican is caught, whether it's with his hand in the cookie jar or in a situation where he's permitted his "Little General" to take command of his faculties, the Republicans close ranks around him and he completes his term in office, indeed he often is endorsed to run for reelection, and his Republican colleagues try to blame others for the misdeeds of their own members.

In other words, although both parties are made up of imperfect human beings, one party, the Democratic Party, refuses to condone unethical and immoral conduct when committed by its members, and the other party, the Republican Party, acts in a way seemingly intended to encourage, and even occasionally reward, such unethical and immoral conduct, perhaps in an effort to foster the notion that they are above the law.

Remember, David Vitter did exactly the same thing (only kinkier) with employees of the same escort service whose services were similarly employed by Eliot Spitzer. When found out, Spitzer was forced to resign, but David Vitter not only remains in office but is given the platform on TV in opposition to health care reform. Of course, what Mark Sanford did was far worse and, in addition to the more sordid aspects of it, involved the misappropriation of public funds, and yet he too remains in office, protected by his Republican colleagues.

And do I even need to recall the matter of Larry "Wide Stance" Craig?

One party, the Democratic Party, governs seriously and conscientiously for the good of the people, although like all people they sometimes make mistakes, both personally and as a group. The other party, the Republican Party, just wants to abuse power to the maximum extent they think they can get away with (and often in excess of that extent) for its own selfish ends. This observation is substantiated by almost every action either party ever takes or attempts.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | March 25, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised that Diaper Dave would even make his presence known. Apparently, getting prostitutes to put you in diapers is okay for grown men with Family Values in Louisiana, . . but I 'll bet the real action happens next.

Posted by: gkam | March 25, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, I fear Vitter will be re-elected. Republican obstructionism is very popular in my state these days, as is blind hatred for Barack Obama, a black man. That being said, his Democratic opponent for November is Charlie "Charlie Boy" Melancon, a self-described, fiscally conservative, pro-life, pro-death penalty, anti-gay rights, strong national defense Christian. As much as I hate this term, Melancon is a DINO for sure. Even if Vitter loses, there won't be much of a change in the voting habits of the Louisiana Senatorial delegation.

Oh, and guess which candidate the Louisiana Family Forum (LA's Focus on the Family) and Governor Jindal are backing? Opposing the president is extremely politically popular right now, and it trumps being a liar and a hypocrite.

Posted by: LouisianaDoug | March 25, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful review of the evening -- with Vitter as "mobile mammography unit" clearly the highlight.

Comparison with the Democrats is stark, as they have achieved the long sought objective of national health care reform.

The GOP horror show marches on . . .

Posted by: truthtime | March 25, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Vitter is a "family values" guy, and sometimes he likes to be the baby in the family.

Posted by: Supertzar | March 25, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Widdo biddy baby Vitter!! (wink wink, ubetcha, hope-y change-y)

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | March 25, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

While the moral hypocracy of many Republicans appalls me, Democrats have not uniformly punished moral turpitude. The biggest example would be Clinton "dipping his quill in the company ink."

But some of our most effective presidents (Clinton, Kennedy, Eisenhower, FDR, etc.) have had moral behavior issues dogging their reputations. And some of our more interesting or less effective presidents (Dubya, Carter, Nixon, etc.) have been monogamous straight-arrows.

I generally worry less about politicians' morals than I do their politics and whether or not they seem to be working for the common good or their own narrow political self-interests. But when someone who markets himself as a "family values guy" blows that particular piece of their credibility by screwing around you do tend to wonder what else he's being dishonest about.

Posted by: Gallenod | March 25, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Max Baucus sounded fine about 1:20 pm, then a bit later sounded as though he was about to fall asleep. My recollection is that back in the early 1980s, he sounded more like John Wayne.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 25, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Aww, cmon you mentioned everything the GOP wanted to do. Meyerson you seem like an educated, common sense guy,...wouldnt You want this reviewed if the common theme of the OBAMA administration and Healthcare was to make sure no kids go uninsured....KIDS KIDS KIDS....think about the kids, this is for the children, the poor children Yet YOU MEYERSON conveniently failed to mention anything about the embarrassing snafu that had the administration scrambling to correct when they found out the BILL doesnt cover children with Pre-Diagnosed Illnesses.....cmon....are you a dope too! Wouldnt you want this bill to go through a FINE TOOTHED COMB, after hearing something like that.

Posted by: Fred23 | March 25, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Heck of a shaggy dog story, Meyerson; but very funny! Thanks!

Posted by: abqcleve | March 25, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Did "Diaper Dave" obtain permission from Deborah Jeane Palfrey to bring this up in front of the Senate?

I hope there is a slug that will run against him this year. His lack of character in not needed by the people of Louisiana or the United States of America.

Posted by: mortified469 | March 25, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Once a few statesman-like giants strode the hall of Congress. Now, we have pee-wee punchlines trying to run things. We might be better off disbanding Congress and leaving the job up to the annual week long American Legion Boy's and Girl's Nations Delegates.

Posted by: BBear1 | March 25, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Vitter is still a senator tells us so much about the GOP!

Posted by: paris1969 | March 25, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha, clever of you. hahahaha. Course we could raise the sexuality of ...oh...start with Clinton...continue with the you know how....sure adds to the debate. Tell you what sonny, why don't you take a vacation, somewhere where your sophomoric, jeuvenile prattle, which comes close to race-baiting, won't bother the people around you...say, Anartica...(poor pengins).

Posted by: wjc1va | March 25, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Why is Vitter still in office? He broke the law, he shouldn't be legislating.

Posted by: MNUSA | March 25, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

When David 'Diaperman' Vitter was still a VIP card-holder at the late DC Madam's enterprise, he must have become very attached to the words 'mobile mammories.' This Senator who paid prostitutes for sex and to nurture his diaper fetish is the funniest of Christian-supremacist, anti-choice, 'moral' crusaders. If people are such simpletons that they reelect him, they deserve his definition of 'change.'

Posted by: revbookburn | March 25, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse


This was adorable ... and we can all use a few opportunities to chuckle as we weather the outbreaks of "totally not amusing" revolts against the passage of a badly flawed bill, but hardly a government take-over of healthcare.

And you are so right - Ginger is great. She did everything Fred did - backwards and in heels. Get a good night's sleep - you've earned it.

Posted by: swkidder | March 25, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

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