NEW ORLEANS -- Gridlock.
That's what two-term Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter envisions for Congress until the next round of midterm elections in two years.
Speaking at the SIGMA annual meeting in New Orleans just hours after President Barack Obama narrowly earned a second term and Democrats stunned pundits by not only retaining their hold on the Senate but actually adding a seat, Vitter was not prepared to walk off the political plank or to call for greater Republican moderation.
David VitterThat doesn't mean the junior senator from Louisiana was ignoring Tuesday night's electoral pasting. "It was a huge, overwhelming disappoint to conservatives and Republicans, particular on the Senate side," he told the largely conservative audience of fuel marketers and retailers. "We did lose ground, from 47 Republicans to 45 on the Senate side.
Nevertheless, the view on the ground remains largely unaffected--Democrats controlling the executive and Senate branches, and the Republicans running the House.
This reality, Vitter said, means neither side is likely to forfeit their positions on key concerns, from global warming to taxation. That said, he is hopeful a compromise can be struck that addresses the nation's multi-trillion dollar debt. Specifically, Vitter supports the broad outlines embraced by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney--dramatic reform to the tax code that drops most rates and offsets them with elimination of numerous loopholes. This approach, he suggested, will inject fresh capital into the economy and spur both short-term and long-term growth.
Vitter, who will serve as the top ranking Republican on the Senate's Environment & Public Works Committee, fielded numerous questions on a range of topics.
Government regulation: With Obama now untethered, Vitter fears an unleashing of numerous regulations, from environmental to workplace. "You'll see a flurry of overregulation from the left."
Durbin Amendment: Vitter said he supported the amendment that sought to regulate debit-card fees, but opposed the broader Dodd-Frank banking overhaul. The next phase of the Durbin amendment, he said, is whether it will hurt smaller banks and institutions, which are carved off from the amendment's restrictions (click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage).
Energy: Vitter predicts that the Obama administration will aggressively pursue an energy policy hostile to the coal and gasoline industry. "I think that coal is going to continue to be phased out in this country." He added that he would tell someone contemplating a future in coal to find another line of work.
Immigration: Despite the beating Republicans suffered from Latinos in Tuesday's elections, Vitter said he's not prepared to support an immigration policy that paves the way to granting millions of illegals amnesty. Citing the failed 2007 initiative pushed by then-President George W. Bush and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Vitter said he favors a multi-phase approach that first intensifies enforcement of America borders and, only after a period of time would he consider addressing the current pool of illegal immigrants.
GOP mistakes: Asked to name three things the Republicans should change to improve their party's national electoral chances, Vitter said, "I want to be cautious to not jump to the wrong conclusions." He added that conservatism is not a mistake but rather that the GOP was undermined by some deeply flawed candidates for Senate. As well, he attributed much of the Democrat's success to the strength of Obama's charisma.