Ensign apologizes at Senate GOP lunch

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) gave his GOP colleagues a two-minute apology at Tuesday’s caucus lunch for “embarrassing the Senate.”

Ensign offered a “very contrite, very sincere” apology for the extramarital affair that he acknowledged last week at a Las Vegas press conference, according to Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Schumer to House GOP: 'Turn back before it's too late' MORE (R-Ga.).

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Several Republicans described Ensign’s short speech in similar terms, saying the junior Nevada senator was humble, sincere and earnest.

“Everybody has flaws, we all do,” said Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP senator to Dems: 'What's all the whining about' on Supreme Court? Trump, time to end outsourcing ... at the IRS Hatch: I may retire if Romney runs to replace me MORE (R-Utah). “All we can do is show love and kindness. He’s so well-thought-of in the caucus.”

The apology was followed by a round of applause by all Republicans similar to those delivered to Sen. David VitterDavid VitterFormer GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World Mercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others MORE (La.) and former Sens. Larry Craig (Idaho) and Ted Stevens (Alaska) after their controversies.

A show of support also came from Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidRepublican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Top GOP senator: 'Tragic mistake' if Democrats try to block Gorsuch MORE (D-Nev.), who had a narrow, contentious race against Ensign in his first Senate election in 1998. Reid told reporters he was standing by Ensign, reminding them that he knew Ensign’s father, Michael, for many years.

“Everyone knows that Senator Ensign and I had a very difficult race in 1998. We have become friends since then,” Reid said. “I'm concerned about his family, and I hope he works his way through this… As far as me commenting on any -- any more, I think I've said all I plan to say on Senator Ensign today.”
Ensign left the GOP lunch through a semi-private door, avoiding reporters gathered around a second, more public entrance. He has avoided taking questions from the press since his return on Monday to the Senate, referring reporters to his week-old statement acknowledging the affair, and declining to comment further.

Meanwhile, several Republicans said Thursday’s leadership elections within the caucus are all but settled. Ensign resigned last week as GOP Policy Chairman, and will be replaced by Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneSenators move to bolster cyber resources for small businesses Optimism rising for infrastructure deal McConnell: ObamaCare 'status quo' will stay in place moving forward MORE (R-S.D.). Thune will be replaced as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiElle honors 10 at annual 'Women in Washington' event Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (Alaska).

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe truth is the latest casualty of today’s brand of politics McCain and Graham: We won't back short-term government funding bill Senate seen as starting point for Trump’s infrastructure plan MORE (Ky.) spoke only briefly about Ensign Tuesday, simply saying he “spoke at our conference, apologized, and indicated that he was going to do his job.”

This story was updated at 3:27 p.m.