Ensign Calls on Craig to Resign
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) on Thursday called for Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) to honor his original resignation speech and his personal commitment to Republicans that he would resign if the judge did not vitiate his guilty plea. “He gave us his word that he would resign. … I’m calling on Sen. Craig to keep his word,” said Ensign. “If he loves his party, and he loves the Senate, the honorable thing to do is to resign.” Craig announced earlier Thursday that he would finish his current term, despite a Minnesota judge’s denial of his request to withdraw his guilty plea to misdemeanor charges related to a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport restroom. Ensign disputed the notion that Republicans were going after Craig for a mere misdemeanor crime. “It’s not an ordinary misdemeanor charge,” said Ensign. “The type of behavior we’re talking about here is not the type of behavior a Senator should be engaged in.” The Republican National Committee was also expected to echo Ensign’s comments. However, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) applauded his home-state colleague’s decision, saying he expected the Senate Ethics Committee to delay any probe until after Craig has exhausted his opportunities to appeal the judge’s ruling today. “Like all citizens of this country, he has the right to vigorously defend his case,” said Crapo. “I look forward to working with him in the Senate.” Still, an ethics inquiry appears all but certain. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the ranking member on Ethics, said Craig potentially violated Senate rules by pleading guilty in the first place. But he deferred other questions, saying, “I can’t really comment on it other than to say, we’ll have to do our job” in the Ethics Committee. But Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), an early supporter of Craig’s legal strategy, said Craig’s offense was not “moral turpitude, and it’s not a basis for leaving the Senate.” Senate Republican leaders, however, continued to deflect questions. “This whole matter is before the Ethics Committee. So it will be dealt with I assume by Sen. Craig and the Ethics Committee,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.