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David Vitter
David Vitter-112th congress-.jpg
Official portrait, 2011
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by John Breaux
Succeeded by John Kennedy
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by Maria Cantwell
Succeeded by Jim Risch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st district
In office
May 29, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Bob Livingston
Succeeded by Bobby Jindal
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 81st district
In office
Preceded by David Duke
Succeeded by Jennifer Sneed Heebe
Personal details
David Bruce Vitter

(1961-05-03) May 3, 1961 (age 63)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Political party Republican
Wendy Baldwin
(m. 1990)
Relations Jeffrey Vitter (brother)
Children 4
Education Harvard University (BA)
Magdalen College, Oxford (BA)
Tulane University (JD)

David Bruce Vitter (born May 3, 1961) is an American politician, attorney, and lobbyist who served as a United States Senator from Louisiana from 2005 to 2017. A member of the Republican Party, Vitter served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2005.

Vitter was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was the first Republican to represent Louisiana in the Senate since the Reconstruction Era, and the first ever Republican to be popularly elected. In 2010, Vitter won a second Senate term by defeating Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Melançon.

Vitter unsuccessfully ran for governor to succeed the term-limited Bobby Jindal in the 2015 gubernatorial election. He lost the general election to Democrat John Bel Edwards. While conceding defeat to Edwards, Vitter announced that he would not seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2016 and would retire from office at the completion of his term. Following the conclusion of his second Senate term, Vitter became a lobbyist.

Early life and education

Vitter Family meets with Vice President Cheney
David Vitter and his family with Vice President Dick Cheney

David Bruce Vitter was born on May 3, 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the son of Audrey Malvina (née St. Raymond) and Albert Leopold Vitter. Vitter graduated in 1979 from De La Salle High School in New Orleans. While a student at De La Salle, Vitter participated in the Close Up Washington civic education program. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College in 1983; a second B.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1985, as a Rhodes Scholar; and a Juris Doctor degree in 1988 from the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. He was a practicing lawyer, and adjunct law professor at Tulane and Loyola University New Orleans.

Vitter and his wife Wendy, a former prosecutor, have four children. Vitter's brother Jeffrey is a computer scientist who has served as chancellor of the University of Mississippi from January 2016 to January 2019.

Early political career

Louisiana House of Representatives

Vitter was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999.

Vitter has argued for ethics reform and term limits since he was in the Louisiana Legislature in the early 1990s. As a Louisiana state legislator, Vitter successfully pushed through a term limits amendment to the state constitution to oust the largely Democratic legislature. The first election legislators affected by the reform occurred in 2007. In order to leverage the term limits advantage in that election, Vitter formed a Political Action Committee with the goal of winning a legislative Republican majority. While the Republicans saw gains, the Democrats maintained majority control.

Vitter opposed gambling during his tenure in the Louisiana House.

United States House of Representatives

Vitter won a special election to Louisiana's 1st congressional district in 1999, succeeding Republican U.S. Representative Bob Livingston, who resigned. In the initial vote on May 1, 1999, former Congressman and Governor David C. Treen finished first with 36,719 votes (25 percent). Vitter was second, with 31,741 (22 percent), and white nationalist David Duke finished third with 28,055 votes (19 percent). Monica L. Monica, a Republican ophthalmologist, had 16 percent; State Representative Bill Strain, a conservative Democrat, finished fifth with 11 percent; and Rob Couhig, a Republican lawyer and the owner of New Orleans's minor league baseball team, garnered 6 percent. In the runoff, Vitter defeated Treen 51–49 percent.

In 2000 and 2002, Vitter was re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote in what had become a safe Republican district.

In 2003, Vitter proposed to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In 2004, he said, "This is a real outrage. The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history...We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts values."

United States Senate

2004 election

In 2004, Vitter ran to replace Democrat John Breaux in the U.S. Senate.

On November 2, 2004, Vitter won the jungle primary, garnering a majority of the vote, while the rest of the vote was mostly split among the Democratic contenders.

Vitter was the first Republican in Louisiana to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator. The previous Republican Senator, William Pitt Kellogg, was chosen by the state legislature in 1876, in accordance with the process used before the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution went into effect in 1914.

2010 election

David Vitter yard sign IMG 0018
Vitter yard sign (2010)

Vitter began fundraising for his 2010 reelection run in December 2008. He raised $731,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and $2.5 million for his 2010 campaign. He had wide leads against potential Democratic opponents in aggregate general election polling. He faced intraparty opposition from Chet D. Traylor of Monroe, a former associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, in the August 28 Republican primary election and defeated him.

He faced the Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Melançon of Napoleonville in the November 2 general election. State Representative Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse in Plaquemines Parish, an Independent, also ran. On November 4, 2010, Vitter was re-elected as Louisiana Senator, defeating his Democratic rival, Melancon. Vitter got 715,304 votes while Melancon got 476,423 votes. Vitter received about 57% of the total vote while Melancon got 38%. The Independent candidate Wooton finished with 8,167 votes, or 1 percent of the total cast.


Vitter has identified himself as a political conservative throughout his political career. His legislative agenda includes pro-gun rights, legislating against gambling, same-sex marriage, civil unions, increases in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the United Nations, and amnesty for America's illegal immigrants. Vitter's stated positions include a balanced budget constitutional amendment, abolishing the federal and state estate tax, increasing local police forces, and an assortment of health care, tax and national defense reforms.

After conceding defeat to John Bel Edwards in the 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election, Vitter announced that he would not seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2016 and would retire from office at the completion of his term.

Automotive industry bailout

Vitter was one of 35 Senators to vote against the Big 3 Bailout bill. The financial bailout package was for GM, Chrysler, and Ford, but failed to pass on December 11, 2008.

BP Horizon oil spill

In response to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill at an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico threatening the coast of Louisiana, Vitter introduced legislation along with Jeff Sessions of Alabama to increase the liability cap of an oil company from $75 million to its most recent annual profits (or $150 million if greater). In the case of BP, the owner of the oil lease, its liability would be $20 billion. Vitter later introduced an amendment that would remove the cap entirely for this particular spill. Competing Democratic proposals would have raised the liability to $10 billion regardless of profits or removed the cap altogether. Sessions argued that large caps unrelated to company profits would harm smaller companies.

Chemical safety

In May 2013, Vitter introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would have regulated the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. The bill would have given additional authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate chemicals and streamline the patchwork of state laws on chemicals under federal authority.

Child protection

In April 2008, Vitter introduced an amendment to continue funding the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act which was excluded from the 2008/2009 budget. His amendment received bipartisan support.

Children's health insurance program

In September 2007, Vitter opposed an increase of $35 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the national program to provide health care for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance. He said he preferred that private health insurance provide the needed care and deemed the bill as "Hillarycare", a reference to the 1993 Clinton health care plan created by Hillary Clinton which proposed universal health care.

Ethics and term limits

Vitter refused to pledge to a voluntary term limit when running for the U.S. Congress in 1999. His opponent characterized this stance as hypocritical, and Vitter countered that unless it were universally applied, the loss of seniority would disadvantage his district. As a Senator, he has proposed term limit constitutional amendments for members of Congress three times. Vitter eventually decided to retire from the Senate in 2016 after serving two terms.

In 2007, in response to lobbying scandals involving, among others, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham, Congress passed a lobbying and ethics reform package to which Vitter proposed a package of five amendments. The Senate approved three that limited which legislators' spouses could lobby the Senate, created criminal penalties for legislators and executive branch officials who falsify financial reports, and doubled the penalties for lobbyists who failed to comply with disclosure requirements. The Senate rejected prohibiting legislators from paying their families with campaign funds with some saying it was unrelated to the current legislation and others that the payments were not a problem. Additionally, they tabled his proposal to define Indian tribes as corporations and its members as shareholders so that they are required to contribute to candidates through political action committees instead of their tribal treasury. Senators objected saying that they are already subjected to campaign laws for unincorporated entities and individuals and that the proposal was singling them out unfairly. The reform package became law in September 2007.

In 2009, Vitter and Democratic former Senator Russ Feingold announced an effort to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress.

Vitter in 2005


Vitter opposed a bid by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to build a casino in Louisiana, arguing that the build site was not historically part of their tribal lands. He lobbied the Interior Department and included language in an appropriations bill to stop the casino. Although the Interior Department gave its approval, the casino has not yet been approved by the state. The Jena chief accused Vitter of ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who simultaneously lobbied against the casino. The chairman of the Senate committee investigating the lobbyist said, "The committee has seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Senator Vitter's opposition to (the proposed casino) had to do with anything other than his long-standing opposition to gambling." In 2007 and 2008, Vitter introduced a bill to prohibit Indian casinos such as Jena's. Neither bill became law.

Gun rights

Rated "A" by the NRA Political Victory Fund, Vitter has been a consistent defender of gun rights. In April 2006, in response to firearm confiscations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter was the Senate sponsor of the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, to prohibit federal funding for the confiscation of legally held firearms during a disaster. Later, Vitter included the provisions of the act in an amendment to an appropriation bill for the Department Of Homeland Security. The bill became law in September 2006, with the amendment modified to allow for the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entering a rescue or evacuation vehicle.

On April 17, 2013, Vitter voted against the Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Amendment. The amendment failed to reach the sixty senatorial votes necessary to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. The Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Amendment is a bipartisan deal on gun background checks. Under the proposal, federal background checks would be expanded to include gun shows and online sales. All such sales would be channeled through licensed firearm dealers who would be charged for keeping record of transactions. The proposal does not require background checks for private sales between individuals.

In February 2008, Vitter – along with Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho – blocked the confirmation of Michael J. Sullivan as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) saying Sullivan supports "burdensome regulations" on gun owners and dealers and is "overly aggressive" enforcing gun laws. An editorial writer for The Boston Globe wrote that Vitter's position was "unreasonable" because the guns Sullivan sought to control are those commonly used in crimes: those stolen or purchased on the black market. On the other hand, gun rights advocates say that many gun dealers have lost their licenses for harmless bureaucratic errors. Sullivan stayed on as acting head of the ATF until January 2009 to make way for President Barack Obama to name his own nominee.

Hurricane Katrina

Senator Vitter discussing relief efforts with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter and the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation worked to bring aid to the Gulf Coast region to rebuild broken levees, schools and hospitals, restore coastal wetlands, and provide assistance for its many victims.

In early September, Vitter said that he would give "the entire big government organized relief effort a failing grade, across the board." He said that state and local governments shared in the blame as well. Vitter's actions during Hurricane Katrina are described in historian Douglas Brinkley's May 2006 book, The Great Deluge.

In September 2007, Vitter announced that he got "a critical concession" from the White House that decreased Louisiana's obligations for hurricane recovery by $1 billion. However, the White House said that was false.


Vitter has been actively involved with legislation concerning illegal immigrants. In June 2007, he led a group of conservative Senators in blocking the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, a piece of federal legislation that would have granted a pathway to legal residence to 12 million illegal immigrants coupled with increased border enforcement. The bill's defeat won Vitter national attention as the bill was supported by President George W. Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy, among others. Vitter characterized the bill as amnesty, which supporters denied. Bush accused the bill's opponents of fear mongering.

In October 2007, Vitter introduced an amendment withholding Community Oriented Policing Services funds from any sanctuary city which bans city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status in violation of the Illegal Immigration Act. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in opposition to the amendment, said these cities do not want to inquire about someone's status if they report a crime, are a victim of domestic violence or get vaccinations for their children. The amendment was defeated.

In November 2007, Vitter introduced a bill requiring banks to verify that no customer was an illegal immigrant before issuing banking or credit cards. The bill never made it out of committee.

In March 2008, Vitter reintroduced the latter two proposals and cosponsored ten of eleven other bills in a Republican package of tough immigration enforcement measures including jail time for illegal border crossing; declaration of English as the official language (thereby terminating language assistance at voting booths and federal agencies); additional construction of a border fence; permission for local and state police to enforce immigration laws and penalties for states who issue drivers licenses to illegals. None of these proposals passed, partially because the Democratic-controlled Senate preferred a comprehensive approach which would include a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for the current population more akin to the package defeated by Vitter in 2007.

In April 2008, Vitter introduced a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that a child born in the United States is not a citizen unless a parent is a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien serving in the military. Currently the Constitution grants citizenship to children born within the U.S. regardless of the legal status of the parents. The bill never made it out of the Democratic-led committee.

Louisiana Family Forum earmark

In September 2007, Vitter earmarked $100,000 in federal money for a Christian group, the Louisiana Family Forum, known for challenging evolution by means of "teaching the controversy" which promotes intelligent design. According to Vitter, the earmark was "to develop a plan to promote better science education". The Times-Picayune alleged the group had close ties with Vitter. However, they have criticized Vitter for his support of Rudy Giuliani.

On October 17, 2007, the liberal organization People For the American Way, along with several other groups asked the Senate to remove the earmark. Vitter later withdrew it.


In May 2008, Vitter voted with the majority, despite the opposition of Bush and other Republicans, for the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 to expand educational benefits for veterans similar to the level provided for returning World War II veterans in the G.I. Bill.

Network neutrality

Vitter was one of six senate Republicans to propose an amendment to a bill which would stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing network neutrality which they allege is a violation of the First Amendment.

New Orleans public housing

In September 2007, The Times-Picayune reported that Vitter and the Bush administration opposed a provision of The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery bill which required that every public housing apartment torn down be replaced with another form of low-income housing on a one-for-one basis. The administration testified that there was not sufficient demand for public housing units, a position contested by several senators. Vitter stated it would recreate "housing projects exactly as they were", isolated and riddled with crime. However, Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democratic Senator, said the intent was to make certain there were affordable places for working-class people who returned. The bill requires that demolished housing projects be replaced with mixed income communities which local housing advocates say is different from the massive public housing developments that Vitter is referring to. However, the bill does not include a ban on large-scale projects. The city housing authority is planning on replacing 4,000 low-income units with mixed-income projects providing a smaller inventory of low-income units. In December 2007, Vitter prevented the bill from leaving the committee.

Obama nominations

Vitter and Jim DeMint were the only two Senators that voted against Hillary Clinton's confirmation for the position of Secretary of State under the new Obama administration, on January 21, 2009.

He blocked President Obama's nominee for the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator until he received a written commitment on flood control issues from the nominee and FEMA. The New York Times, along with some Republican Senators, criticized Vitter for what it characterized as political posturing, given that the hurricane season was quickly approaching. He lifted his hold on May 12, 2009.

Affordable Care Act

Vitter opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Same-sex marriage

Vitter opposes both same-sex marriage and civil unions. In June 2006, he said "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one ... I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress." In 2006, he told The Times-Picayune, "I'm a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history."

In October 2005, at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon, Vitter compared gay marriage to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which came through the same geographical areas. Vitter said "It's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita. I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

School board prayer

In 2005 Vitter introduced a resolution supporting prayer at school board meetings in response to an earlier district court decision that the Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish practice of opening meetings with Christian prayers was unconstitutional. The bill died in committee after receiving little support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Vitter later reintroduced the resolution in January 2007 after a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court concluded that Christian prayers were unconstitutional but was undecided whether nonsectarian prayers were allowed. In July 2007, the full Fifth Circuit dismissed the case because of a lack of standing. The school board subsequently resumed prayer evocations but opened it to diverse community religions. Vitter's bill died in committee.

Tea Party movement

In recognition of the Tea Party protests opposing President Barack Obama's policies, Vitter proposed Senate Resolution 98, which would designate April 15 in years both 2009 and 2010 as "National TEA Party Day". As of April 2009, the bill has no cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary with no scheduled action.

In September 2010, Vitter signed a candidate pledge from the North Central Louisiana TEA Party Patriots. It included a promise to "Conduct myself personally and professionally in a moral and socially appropriate manner."

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

In September 2007, during hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vitter expressed serious doubts about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty concerning issues of U.S. sovereignty echoing an array of conservative groups against the treaty including the National Center for Public Policy Research, The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Security Policy. The treaty, which sets up countries' jurisdiction over their coasts and ocean including exploration and navigation rights, was supported by the Bush administration, a majority of the United States Senate, the Pentagon, the State Department and Navy as do a coalition of business and environmental groups. The committee approved the treaty 17–4, with Vitter voting no.

Water Resources and Development Act

Vitter helped write the Water Resources and Development Act for flood-control, hurricane-protection and coastal-restoration projects including $3.6 billion for Louisiana. He called it the "single most important" legislation for assisting Louisiana with its recovery from hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush vetoed the act, objecting to its cost. Congress overrode his veto, enacting the bill.

Committee assignments

2015 gubernatorial election

Vitter announced on January 21, 2014, that he would run for governor of Louisiana in the 2015 election. Then-Governor Bobby Jindal was ineligible to seek re-election due to term limits. Vitter was the first sitting or ex-U.S. Senator to launch a gubernatorial bid in Louisiana since 1904, when Democrat Newton Blanchard was elected. Vitter's major opponents were Republicans Scott Angelle, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner and former lieutenant governor, and Jay Dardenne, the current lieutenant governor; and Democrat John Bel Edwards, Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

In the November 21 runoff election, Edwards defeated Vitter by 56% to 44%.

Other political involvement

In 2016, Vitter succeeded after a five-year battle in passing through the Senate landmark legislation to reform the country's chemical safety laws. Vitter called the legislation a "big accomplishment. This is an area of federal law that everybody, every stakeholder, every group, whether it's some far-left environmental group or industry, said needed to be updated. The trick was getting agreement on doing that." Democratic colleague Richard Durbin of Illinois, a frequent critic of Vitter, said that if the bill is enacted with President Obama's signature "it's quite an accomplishment for him and for Congress to pass historic legislation."

Post-Senate career

After his Senate term ended, Vitter joined the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. As of October 2019, Vitter had lobbied for sanctioned Chinese surveillance company Hikvision as well as for the Libyan Government of National Accord and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He also lobbied for the sanctioned Russian bank Sovcombank.

Electoral history

2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes  %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 444,517 39.89%
Republican David Vitter 256,300 23.00%
Republican Scott Angelle 214,982 19.29%
Republican Jay Dardenne 166,656 14.96%
Democratic Cary Deaton 11,763 1.06%
Democratic S. L. Simpson 7,420 0.67%
No party Beryl Billiot 5,694 0.51%
Other Jeremy Odom 4,756 0.43%
Other Eric Paul Orgeron 2,248 0.20%
Total 1,114,336 100%
Party Candidate Votes  %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 646,924 56.1%
Republican David Vitter 505,940 43.9%
Total 1,152,864 100%
Democratic gain from Republican

2010 Louisiana United States Senatorial Election

Party Candidate Votes  %
Republican David Vitter (inc.) 715,304 56.56%
Democratic Charlie Melancon 476,423 37.67%
Libertarian Randall Hayes 13,952 1.10%
No party Michael Brown 9,970 0.79%
Other Mike Spears 9,188 0.73%
Other Ernest Wooton 8,164 0.65%
No party Skip Galan 7,471 0.59%
Reform William McShan 5,879 0.46%
Other Bob Lang 5,732 0.45%
No party Milton Gordon 4,806 0.38%
Other Tommy LaFargue 4,042 0.32%
No party Sam Melton 3,779 0.30%
Total 1,264,710 100%
Republican hold

2004 Louisiana United States Senatorial Election

Party Candidate Votes  %
Republican David Vitter 943,014 51.03%
Democratic Chris John 542,150 29.34%
Democratic John Neely Kennedy 275,821 14.92%
Democratic Arthur A. Morrell 47,222 2.56%
Other Richard M. Fontanesi 15,097 0.82%
Other R. A. "Skip" Galan 12,463 0.67%
Democratic Sam Houston Melton, Jr. 12,289 0.66%
Total 1,848,056 100%
Republican gain from Democratic

1999 Louisiana 1st District United States Congressional Election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes  %
Republican David C. Treen 36,719 25.06%
Republican David Vitter 31,741 21.67%
Republican David Duke 28,059 19.15%
Republican Monica Monica 22,928 15.65%
Democratic Bill Strain 16,446 11.23%
Republican Rob Couhig 9,295 6.34%
Democratic Darryl P. Ward 720 0.49%
Republican Patrick E. Landry 344 0.23%
Republican S. J. LoCoco 246 0.17%
Total 146,498 100%
Party Candidate Votes  %
Republican David Vitter 61,661 50.75%
Republican David C. Treen 59,849 49.25%
Total 121,510 100%
Republican hold

1995 Louisiana 81st District State House of Representatives Election

Party Candidate  %
Republican David Vitter (inc.) 100%
Total 100%
Republican hold

1991 Louisiana 81st District State House of Representatives Election

Party Candidate  %
Republican David Vitter 68%
Republican Mike Reynolds 24%
Republican Mercedes Hernandez 8%
Total 100%
Republican hold
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