Senate Ethics panel rejects Vitter’s call for Reid, Boxer probe

The Senate Ethics Committee rejected Tuesday Sen. David VitterDavid VitterGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Louisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator Louisiana Republicans: This isn’t like Sandy MORE’s (R-La.) demand that the panel investigate Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Trail 2016: The fallout Dem groups invest big in Bayh in Ind. Senate race Reid blocks Thune tech bill over FCC nomination fight MORE (D-Nev.) and Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Dems demand Flint funding promise 'in writing' from GOP Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal MORE (D-Calif.).

The Panel said that Vitter’s complaint earlier this month offered no concrete evidence that the two senators or their staff circulated draft legislation in an attempt to dissuade members from voting for a particular piece of legislation sponsored by Vitter.

“The Committee has previously concluded that mere allegations with no evidence or information to support their substantive merit, are insufficient to extend the Committee’s investigative process,” said John Sassaman, chief counsel to the panel in a letter to Vitter.

Vitter had called on Boxer to be recused from any investigation since she heads the panel. A Boxer spokesman said she chose not to be involved in the process.

Vitter’s request came after reports that Democrats were considering embarrassing the Louisiana Republican by bringing up a number of pieces of legislation, including one alluding to his prostitution scandal in 2007. 

Another alleged proposal, which Vitter cited in his complaint, would have withheld healthcare benefits from members who voted for Vitter’s amendment to an energy efficiency bill.

Vitter’s amendment was aimed at forcing lawmakers and their staff to buy health insurance on ObamaCare exchanges without receiving any federal contributions. 

The Ethics panel said it does not typically investigate draft legislation. 

“An inquiry involving speculation over draft legislative language not part of any bill or any proceeding would be unprecedented,” the letter read. 

Vitter and Boxer both head the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversaw the energy efficiency bill. Earlier this month Vitter had stalled a vote on the energy efficiency bill because he wanted a vote on the healthcare amendment. 

In retaliation, reports leaked that Democrats were considering bringing up the legislative proposals, prompting Vitter’s ethics complaint. 

A Vitter spokesman said the Ethics Committee was shirking its responsibility by not using news reports as evidence and not having Boxer recuse herself.

"Boy, they're really doing their job," the spokesman said in a statement. 

— This post was updated at 8:12 p.m.