The economy was the first and foremost topic of discussion Friday when the Jean LaFitte Center played host to Senator David Vitter’s town hall meeting.
“Job one, right now, in terms of challenges for our nation, is jobs. We’re in a real serious recession that’s getting worse before it turns around,” Vitter said at the start.
In particular, Vitter expressed his opposition to the $700 billion financial bailout, and his continued opposition to the auto industry bailout, funded from the financial bailout by President George Bush.
“I have a lot of reservations about government throwing money directly at individual businesses, getting that involved,” Vitter said.
Vitter described the financial bailout as having become “a slush fund for whatever the administration decides to use the money for,” including the auto industry bailout.
Vitter found a lot of support from his audience on that and other issues.
Retired Colonel Dick LeDoux thanked Vitter for his efforts in supporting the Second Amendment (right to keep and bear arms) and supporting veterans, and urged him to continue working to protect returning GI’s.
Vitter cited the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington as one way in which the government has failed its servicemen and women, and said, “We’re working to address those issues in every way possible.”
“We are a nation at war,” Vitter said, “and part of that is to remember our men and women in service to their country.”
In answer to a question regarding congressional pay raises, Vitter said that he was working on a bill to end the automatic cost of living increases that legislators receive, and urged those who are interested to visit his web site at www.vitter.senate.gov and sign up for his regular email updates.
Vitter also agreed with another audience member that a resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine, which requires equal time for opposing viewpoints to air in the media, would harm “the free market of ideas”, as Vitter put it.
Vitter also joined with members of his audience in expressing his opposition to providing benefits to illegal aliens, and said he supports cutting off federal dollars to so-called “sanctuary cities”, cities that harbor illegal aliens and refuse to assist immigration officials.
“President-Elect (Barack) Obama has talked about a big, big bill to help stimulate the economy. I think something is absolutely necessary to lessen the recession,” Vitter said. “The Federal government needs to lead and be part of the solution because the private sector is caught like a deer in the headlights right now.
“However, we need to do it right. The devil is in the details. We can’t just throw money at it,” Vitter said.
Vitter said he would support a proposal that provided tax relief for individuals and small businesses.
“I’m also a little leery of what they’re calling tax relief, sending checks to those who don’t pay income tax and calling it a tax credit. I think that’s a little bit of a misnomer,” Vitter commented.
Vitter expressed reserved optimism in the president-elect’s cabinet choices.
“I’m impressed with many of them. Others, like the Attorney General, I have real questions about, which we will be pursuing in the Senate hearings.”
“I am real happy that some of them suggest that he’s moderating from more far-left views, but we’ll have to see how that plays out.”
Vitter also spoke afterwards about how he sees his role, and that of his fellow Republicans, in the upcoming congressional session.
“The Senate is the only place politically where conservatives have any voice. That’s our one opportunity to improve legislation or to block legislation. I say that because everything requires 60 votes, not a simple majority, and Democrats are just shy of that.”
“So I think that’s a very important role, to make sure that Louisiana viewpoints and conservative values are reflected there, because that is the one opportunity to have any impact in that direction,” Vitter said.
Vitter said the meeting in Eunice was part of his pledge, when he first ran for office, to hold meetings in every parish before the start of each Congress.
“It’s a great way for me to hear, very directly, what sort of things I should be focused on,” Vitter said.
Eighteen months ago, a meeting like this would have been a lot less friendly for Vitter.
In 2007, it seemed as though Vitter would not escape the cloud that hung over him after he confessed to “a very serious sin” in his past when his phone number came up in connection to a Washington, D.C. prostitution service.
After apologies to his constituents and fellow Republicans, Vitter seems to have put the matter behind him as he prepares to run for reelection next year.
Asked how comfortable he and his family were in terms of the scandal and his reelection prospects, Vitter replied, “Personally, I’m very comfortable. I’ve dealt with what happened almost 10 years ago very thoroughly with my family, and so we are all very comfortable.”
“Obviously, individual voters will have to decide what is important to them, but I think many have taken my very sincere remorse to heart, and I think many will look at the substantive work that I’m doing in the Senate, and vote accordingly.”