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Senator finding himself a man alone as Republican lawmakers call for his resignation

Senator finding himself a man alone as Republican lawmakers call for his resignation

A Republican senator who has represented his state in Congress for 27 years is finding himself increasingly isolated from his political allies as more members of his party call for him to resign over his arrest in an airport men's room on a disorderly conduct charge.
A spokesman for Sen. Larry Craig denied widespread speculation in Washington that the senator _ up for re-election next year _ was preparing to quit. Sidney Smith said Wednesday he had heard no such discussion.
Republican Senate leaders pushed Craig from senior committee positions. A White House spokesman expressed disappointment in the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation last June in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.
His is the latest in a series of scandals involving Republicans that threaten to further tarnish the party's reputation. Polls showed that ethical lapses by Republicans played a role in allowing Democrats to win control of Congress during last year's legislative elections.
Now Republicans are trying to curb the power of the new Democratic majority in Congress and generate some enthusiasm for Republican candidates in the 2008 elections at a time when a Republican president, George W. Bush, is at a record low in public opinion polls, mainly due to his handling of the war In Iraq.
Some Republicans took a harsh stand against the lawmaker. "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator," said Sen. Norm Coleman. . "He should resign."
Coleman, who faces a tough race for re-election next year, also turned over to charity a $2,500 (euro1,840) campaign donation he received two months ago from Craig's political action committee.
Craig "represents the Republican Party," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who called the behavior unacceptable and was the first in a steadily lengthening list of Republican members of Congress calling on Craig to quit.
Sen. John McCain, a presidential contender, also urged Craig to step down, as did a handful of Republican House members.
One Republican senator who did not call for Craig to resign _ Kit Bond _ said he was praying for Craig and his family but still called Craig's conduct intolerable.
"It is unacceptable for a member of Congress to be soliciting sex in public restrooms," Bond said.
Craig's spokesman Smith said the Republican lawmakers "have a right to express themselves," but added, "We're not going to get into an argument on that right now."
Craig is cooperating with Senate leaders by stepping aside as the senior Republican on the Veteran Affairs committee and from his position on two subcommittees, Smith said.
Craig said Tuesday he had committed no wrongdoing and should not have pleaded guilty. He said he had only recently retained a lawyer to advise him in the case, which threatens to write an ignominious end to a lifetime in public office.
Republican Senate leaders said they did not act lightly in asking Craig to give up his leadership posts temporarily. But they said their decision was "in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee."
Meanwhile, Republicans in Craig's home state of Idaho were uncertain how to react.
Craig has built deep trust and loyalty across the state during his long legislative career and has come to know many of his supporters by name.
His work on the Appropriations Committee has delivered millions of dollars for public works projects, nonprofit organizations, farmers, ranchers and businesses _ and the risk of losing all that worried some Republicans.
Republican activists also said they wanted to give Craig time to explain his version of events.
"I think people here still need a little time," said Republican state Sen. Mel Richardson of Idaho Falls. "People want to weigh in their minds how they feel about him and whether they can believe the evidence here."
For the most part, Democrats studiously avoided involvement with an unfolding Republican scandal.
"We at least ought to hear his side of the story," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, a presidential contender.
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Associated Press writers Todd Dvorak in Idaho, David Espo, Ken Thomas, Fred Frommer and Sam Hananel in Washington, and Jim Davenport in South Carolina contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-16 16:20 GMT+08:00