Sen. David Vitter, R-La., on sue-and-settle practices among environmentalists: James Varney Q&A

Q: Now is that [Competitive Enterprise Institute] lawsuit the one you’re referring to when you talk about private parties?

Vitter: Yes, in terms of e-mails, yes.

Q: Why would they be more responsive to a lawsuit than Congress?

Vitter: Because a judge has forced them to hand over certain things because a judge’s ruling, ‘you have to hand over this by a certain date.’

Q: OK, because I mean I guess maybe this – I know you’re working with [Rep.] Darrell Issa [R-Ca.] on this one and maybe it goes to partisan control of Congress, but I mean you guys have subpoena power, too, right?

Vitter: Well, they do on the House side. We essentially don’t on issues like this on the Senate side because we need the committee chair’s OK, which is a Democrat so we’re never going to get it on the Senate side. They do on the House side. Another opportunity, though, coming up which I’m going to take full advantage of, there’s going to be a confirmation of the new EPA head as soon as he or she is named. So that will be some leverage that I’m certainly going to use through the committee to get full information about this.

Q: OK, Senator, and I had one last question sort of from a devil’s advocate point of view because I’m sure this is something that’s going to come your way, which is these guys are colluding with the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council and all these other familiar players among the left-wing environmental groups, how do you respond if somebody says, ‘well, here we see Republican elected officials just doing the CEI’s bidding and they’re colluding with conservative think tanks and the like that oppose the left-wing groups’?