Vitter renews demand for Ethics Committee probe of Sens. Reid, Boxer

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) expanded his ethics complaint Thursday in an attempt to pinpoint and punish the Senate Democrats who leaked draft legislation earlier this month in an attempt to embarrass him.  

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Vitter’s call for a second Ethics Committee investigation comes two days after the panel rejected a prior request to investigate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), due to what it said was a lack of evidence. 

Vitter accuses Reid and Boxer of “bribery” based on news reports that said unnamed Democrats were considering legislation that would withhold member healthcare benefits from lawmakers who support a specific healthcare measure sponsored by the Louisiana Republican. 

Boxer responded later on Thursday in a statement that said the Ethics panel had already rejected Vitter's "baseless" complaint. 

"This whole matter has gone from bizarre to surreal. I believe a Senator using the Ethics Committee to launch political attacks is unprecedented and outrageous," she said.

In his expanded request, Vitter called on the panel to determine which senators — not only Reid and Boxer — were involved in the plan. 

Vitter’s initial complaint 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 that stalled earlier this month. 

Vitter’s amendment was aimed at reversing an Office of Personnel Management decision that allows members and their staff to continue to receive federal contributions to their health insurance when they move to the exchanges. 

"This outrageous episode just shows how far Harry Reid and company will go to protect their ObamaCare exemption. Well, I have news for them: I'm not going away and this issue isn't going away," Vitter said.

In its rejection of his first complaint, the Ethics panel said it could not investigate “speculation over draft legislative language not part of any bill or any proceeding.”

Vitter included an email exchange between his office and a Politico reporter who broke the story, claiming it proves the legislation had been formally drafted.  

Vitter said the panel is holding his complaint to a higher standard, and ticked off instances where the committee proceeded with investigations based on news reports. He also said lobbing personal and political attacks using Senate resources would amount to improper conduct.  

Reid and Boxer have called the allegations baseless. 

This story was updated at 4:10 p.m.