BATON ROUGE — U.S. Sen. David Vitter called his time in Congress “the greatest honor of my professional life,” as he gave a farewell speech Monday ahead of the end to his 12-year Senate tenure and a 25-year career as an elected official.
The Republican incumbent from Metairie didn’t run for a third term this fall, after losing the Louisiana governor’s race last year in a blistering campaign. His term wraps up in January.
Vitter, who successfully pushed for term limits when in the Louisiana Legislature, has been unable to enact something similar in Congress but said he believed in term limits’ value and was “imposing it on myself.”
Louisiana’s senior senator was in office less than a year when his home state was devastated by the back-to-back blows of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. He said his work was dominated for years “by the desperate need to rebuild our state.” He said he was inspired by Louisianians’ resilience after those storms, the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill and more recent flooding.
“Their strength and their optimism have been powerful reminders of how blessed I’ve been to serve them,” he said.
Acknowledging he was “not generally big on nostalgic reminisces,” the senator focused on what he considered his main achievements: recovery work, his push for limited government, anti-abortion legislation and passage of several water resources development bills, among others. He said he held 398 town hall meetings across the state as a senator.
In his speech, Vitter also took swipes at President Barack Obama, saying he was hopeful President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will dismantle Obama’s health law. Vitter also described a need for government reform.
“Americans of all backgrounds think Washington is on a different planet and members of Congress just don’t get it,” he said.
An Ivy League-educated lawyer, Vitter was a state representative before being elected to Congress, where he served for more than five years in the U.S. House before moving up to the Senate. He hasn’t announced where he’ll work next.
His campaign for governor last year was in part derailed by voters’ continued unease with a 2007 prostitution scandal in which Vitter apologized for a “serious sin” after he was linked through phone records to Washington’s “D.C. Madam.”