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 IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Price’s job seen at risk after Trump slams private jet use Senate passes bipartisan Medicare reform bill 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 Grant HatchGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot 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 VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator 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 ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial 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 Randolph ThuneGun proposal picks up GOP support Overnight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-S.D.). Thune will be replaced as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: 'Not a fan of governing by tweet' How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE (Alaska).

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform 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.