By J. Taylor Rushing - 06/23/09 07:52 PM EDT
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.
The apology was followed by a round of applause by all Republicans, similar to that which was delivered to Sen. David VitterDavid VitterTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense David Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid Former KKK leader David Duke running for Senate 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 ReidThe Trail 2016: Her big night Reid: Trump 'may have' broken the law with Russia remarks Senator slams Reid for 'dangerous game' on Trump briefings 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 ThuneTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense FCC chief pushes phone companies to offer free robocall blocking How the new aviation law will affect your travel MORE (R-S.D.). Thune will be replaced as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Big Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund MORE (Alaska).
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPeter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Reid: Trump is a 'hateful con man' McAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes 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 CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him 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.