U.S. Sen. David Vitter. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 4:16 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — U.S. Sen. David Vitter told a packed town hall meeting Thursday that he will support a federal government shutdown this fall rather than agree to pay for President Barack Obama's health care law.
"I'm going to fight like the dickens. I'm going to vote to repeal, to delay, to defund," the Republican senator said.
Vitter said he won't vote for legislation to continue paying for U.S. government services beyond Sept. 30 if it contains money for the health care law's implementation.
Without passage of that legislation, the federal government could be temporarily shuttered.
The issue divides Republicans, some of whom say a shutdown could damage GOP candidates at the polls and create a backlash from the American public.
But participants in Vitter's town hall in East Baton Rouge Parish urged the GOP senator to stymie the Affordable Care Act in any way possible, saying a government shutdown would force Democrats to negotiate. At one point, several audience members shouted in unison, "Shut it down," loudly cheering the idea.
"Shut down the government! Shut down the government! Shut down the government!" Robert Ordeneaux, 65, a retired Exxon employee, yelled from his seat to applause.
Ordeneaux said he thought a shutdown would be "the only way that people will wake up" to the excesses in federal government spending and bureaucracy.
He and several others in the audience said they'd be willing to temporarily lose their government benefits through Social Security, Medicare and other programs listed by Vitter that would stop issuing checks in a shutdown.
"As long as nobody in this room is going to call me about not getting their check, I'm all for it," Vitter told the crowd, which overfilled a local library meeting room.
The senator took questions from the group for more than an hour, many of which focused on the Democrats' health care law and ways to keep the insurance changes and coverage increases from being rolled out across the country.
The room was filled with Vitter supporters, and he agreed with audience members who suggested that Republicans needed to do more to attract Hispanic voters and that Congress needs to focus on immigration enforcement before creating new paths to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States illegally.
However, he disagreed with people who said Congress should seek to impeach Obama and who urged Vitter to lead the effort if Republicans take control of the Senate after the 2014 election. Crowd members applauded the suggestion.
"I completely disagree with all of the president's policies. I think he's horrible for the country. But I won't (support impeachment), because I think it would backfire," Vitter said, suggesting it would increase public support for Obama.
The Republican senator talked of the need to change the Senate leadership, and he supported Congressman Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Baton Rouge who is running against Vitter's colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, in next year's election.
"I think Bill is a very good, credible Republican opponent. I think he has an excellent chance of winning," he said.