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Leader of Republican Senate campaign committee suggests lawmaker should resign after bathroom sex sting

Leader of Republican Senate campaign committee suggests lawmaker should resign after bathroom sex sting

A member of the Senate Republican leadership suggested Thursday that a senior lawmaker in the party resign in the wake of his guilty plea in a men's room undercover police sex sting.
"I think the pressure will continue to build," said Sen. John Ensign, who chairs the party's senatorial campaign committee that supports candidates with money and other political necessities.
Ensign told The Associated Press that Sen. Larry Craig "admitted guilt, he pled guilty. It's a little different situation than just being accused of something."
Ensign stopped short of calling on Craig to resign the seat he has held for 18 years but strongly suggested he do so.
"I wouldn't put myself hopefully in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that's what I would do," he said. "He's going to have to answer that for himself."
Several other Republicans have called on Craig to step down, and Ensign's comments, coming from a member of the leadership, sent an unmistakable public signal that support for the Craig has eroded significantly in the unfolding scandal.
Craig pleaded guilty on Aug. 1 to a charge of disorderly conduct after being arrested in a sting operation in a Minneapolis airport men's room several weeks earlier. On Tuesday, he said that despite his guilty plea, he had done nothing wrong and had hired an attorney.
His predicament has roiled the Republican party in his home state and nationally in the days since. Republicans lost control of Congress in last November's elections, partly do to scandals and are trying to regroup in preparation for the next round of voting in late 2008.
On Tuesday, Republican Senate leaders pushed Craig from senior committee positions. A White House spokesman expressed disappointment in the 62-year-old lawmaker.
Others Republicans were harsher. "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, who has represented the conservative western state in Congress for 27 years, has built deep trust and loyalty across the state 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.
For the most part, Democrats studiously avoided involvement with an unfolding Republican scandal.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat, said his party stood to gain. "All of these people who (are) holier than thou are now under investigations. ... I think the Republican Party will find itself in a great peril next year," he said.
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Associated Press writers Scott Sonner in Nevada Reno, Todd Dvorak in Idaho, David Espo, Ken Thomas, Fred Frommer and Sam Hananel in Washington, and Jim Davenport in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-19 08:59 GMT+08:00