Ensign Offers Mea Culpa; Colleagues Say It’s Time to Move On

Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:27pm

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) offered an apology to the Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday over an affair he had with a former campaign staffer that has dominated the front pages of newspapers for the past week.

His fellow Republicans said Ensign’s two-minute speech at the Conference’s weekly Tuesday luncheon was serious and somber in tone. Following that, Ensign received a round of applause, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

“He expressed himself sincerely and candidly,— Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said. “It’s time to move on, and we wish him the best.—

After revealing his affair with a former campaign staffer last Tuesday, Ensign, 51, resigned from the Senate GOP leadership. He had served as Republican Policy Committee chairman, the No. 4 slot in the hierarchy. Last cycle, Ensign served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also kept his remarks brief on Tuesday, offering just one sentence on the matter: “Sen. Ensign obviously can speak for himself,— McConnell said, providing few details of what was said during the lunchtime address. “But he spoke to our Conference, apologized, and said he’s going to do his job.—

Though he was not present for Ensign’s mea culpa, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said his and Ensign’s friendship — which blossomed after the two ran against each other in a tough 1998 race that Reid won — remains unchanged.

“Everyone knows that Sen. Ensign and I had a very difficult race back in 1998,— Reid said. “We have become friends since then. … I am concerned about his family, and I hope he works through this.—

Ensign did not speak to reporters Tuesday and apparently used a back staircase to come to and go from the luncheon. Up for re-election in 2012, Ensign has given no indication he plans to resign his Senate seat.