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 HatchProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Republicans offer this impossible choice: Tax cuts or senior care Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore 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 VitterQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe You'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 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 ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor 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 ThuneSenate panel approves GOP tax plan Republicans see rising Dem odds in Alabama Overnight Health Care: Nearly 1.5M sign up for ObamaCare so far | Schumer says Dems won't back ObamaCare deal if it's tied to tax bill | House passes fix to measure letting Pentagon approve medical treatments MORE (R-S.D.). Thune will be replaced as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate bill would cut EPA funding by 0M GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal MORE (Alaska).

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill 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 CoburnFormer GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder Lobbying World -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground 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.