Ensign apologizes to GOP colleagues

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) gave his GOP colleagues a two-minute apology at Tuesday’s policy 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 news conference, according to multiple GOP senators.

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“Everybody has flaws — we all do,” said Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDemocrats urge colleagues to oppose prison reform bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Senate GOP anger over McCain insult grows 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 that which was delivered to Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterPlanned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? MORE (La.) and former Sens. Larry Craig (Idaho) and Ted Stevens (Alaska) after their recent controversies.

A spokesman for the Senate Ethics Committee would not comment Tuesday when asked whether the committee is considering any inquiries into the matter.

A show of support also came from Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules 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, noting that he knew Ensign’s father, Michael, for many years.

“Everyone knows that Sen. 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 Sen. Ensign today.”

There were no Senate votes Tuesday. Ensign spent the morning alone in his Senate hideaway, making no public appearances, and he left the GOP lunch through a semi-private door to avoid reporters gathered around a more public entrance. He has avoided taking questions from the press since his return on Monday to the Senate, simply 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 conference are all but settled. Ensign resigned last week as GOP Policy chairman, and will be replaced by Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePost-Zuckerberg, tech CEOs under pressure to testify Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Twitter CEO meets with lawmakers to talk net neutrality, privacy MORE (R-S.D.). Thune will be replaced as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary Dem rep to launch discharge petition to force net neutrality vote in House MORE (Alaska).

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress GOP lawmakers want Trump to stop bashing Congress Parkland father calls out Trump, McConnell, Ryan after Santa Fe shooting MORE (Ky.) spoke only briefly about Ensign on Tuesday, simply saying he “spoke at our conference, apologized and indicated that he was going to do his job.”

Doug Hampton, the husband of the woman Ensign had the affair with, said in a letter sent to media that he and others have confronted the senator at his Washington, D.C., home, which he shares with Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism MORE (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Hampton said in the letter that Coburn was present during one confrontation.

When approached by The Hill, Coburn would not comment on whether he had prior knowledge of Ensign’s affair. Coburn said “80 percent” of the reporting on Ensign’s affair and admission have been inaccurate, but would not elaborate.