GOP welcomes back Vitter

Republican colleagues welcomed Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterRed-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins Trump calls on Republicans to vote out Democratic Louisiana governor amid GOP infighting MORE back to Washington Tuesday after the Louisianan spent a tense week avoiding the flap over his ties to the escort service of the so-called “D.C. Madam.”

Vitter made brief remarks to GOP conference members about his admission of contacts with the alleged prostitution network during Tuesday’s policy lunch, according to sources. Few Republicans would discuss the nature of Vitter’s comments, but most opened their arms to him.

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“I think everybody seemed glad to have him back at work,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said.

“People were supportive,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill MORE (R-S.D.) said. “They realize that he’s worked through this [during] this past week, that he’s ready to move forward.”

Vitter attended a Commerce Committee hearing on rural aviation, later appearing with Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) close by his side. Coburn later dismissed talk of his helping to shield Vitter from ever-present TV cameras, saying the two had been talking about healthcare policy.

Democrats largely have steered clear of the scandal, but even Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Bottom Line Lobbying world MORE (D-Nev.) was drawn into the debate over Vitter’s behavior. Reid told reporters he would not press Vitter to address the issue further, but called for “a full airing” of whether the Republican broke any laws.

“There are a lot of accusations about prostitutes here in Washington, prostitutes in Louisiana. I don’t know if that’s breaking the law or not,” Reid said.

Vitter has denied charges that he patronized several brothels in his home state. Asked about the potential for Ethics Committee action against Vitter, Reid noted that a complaint must be filed before any inquiry begins in that panel, “so we’ll wait and see what happens there.”