Well, not all of them.
Republicans indicated Thursday that they plan to make life in the Senate uncomfortable for Larry E. Craig.
After the Idaho senator announced his determination to remain in office, fellow Republicans raised the possibility of ejecting him from committees and holding public ethics hearings.
“This gets real now,” a Republican aide said. “I think a lot of people waited — gave him the benefit of the doubt until the judge ruled.”
Craig put his colleagues in a political bind Thursday when he did an about-face and said he would stay in office for the rest of the 110th Congress despite a judge’s refusal to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea in a restroom sex sting.
“I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee — something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate,” Craig said.
Republican Senate leaders plan to confer during the chamber’s Columbus Day recess about how to cope with Craig’s decision. The consultations could result in his ejection from all of his committee assignments. Craig had already relinquished his status as ranking Republican on one committee and two subcommittees.
GOP leaders had requested an Ethics Committee investigation in August, shortly after learning that Craig had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer interpreted some of Craig’s actions in a restroom as a solicitation for sex. The most extreme option available to that committee is recommending expulsion — something that hasn’t happened in the Senate since the Civil War.
“My guess is there will be” public ethics hearings, said John Ensign, R-Nev., the senator in charge of improving GOP election prospects in 2008. Republicans are defending 22 Senate seats, including several left open by retiring incumbents.
“I think it would be a mistake to put the Senate through an ethics investigation process that could potentially lead to public hearings,” Ensign said. “I think that he should do the right thing and keep his word.”
Last week, Craig backed off his earlier plan to resign as of Sept. 30, saying he wanted to remain “for now” and await the judge’s ruling on his request to retract his misdemeanor guilty plea.
Craig said Thursday he will not run for re-election next year. But having him in the Senate — and featured as the punch line of comedians’ jokes on national television — won’t help Ensign and others at the National Republican Senatorial Committee steer political attention to where they’d prefer it to be.
“This is not just an ordinary misdemeanor charge, and I think we all know that,” Ensign said. “You wouldn’t get this kind of attention here if this was an ordinary misdemeanor charge.”
Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who had been among the first to call for Craig’s resignation, said the Ethics Committee would deal with him now. “I’ll await their findings and recommendations,” said Coleman, who faces a tough re-election battle next year.
“I think most of us have made our views clear in the past that he made the right decision in stepping aside,” said John Thune, R-S.D. “It’s a distraction.”
The one public glimmer of tolerance came from Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
“Disorderly conduct is not moral turpitude, and it’s not a basis for leaving the Senate,” Specter said. “I think he makes a good point when he says he wants to clear his name in an Ethics Committee hearing.”
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Ethics Committee, said the panel will conduct a preliminary inquiry before making any conclusions about a full investigation or possible public hearings.
“We have just begun,” she said.
Stanley M. Brand, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents Craig, maintained that it would be unprecedented to punish a senator “for a misdemeanor occurring outside their official duties.”
Craig pleaded guilty in August to a disorderly conduct charge arising from an incident June 11 in a restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. An undercover police officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia, interpreted some of Craig’s bathroom-stall hand and foot motions as an invitation for sex.
On Sept. 1, with the guilty plea no longer a secret, Craig declared his intention to resign from the Senate as of Sept. 30. But Specter told Craig he had acted too hastily and should have fought the charges.
His initial decision to quit was supported by the Republican leadership.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrived at the Senate for a floor vote Thursday ready with a short reply to the inevitable question about the day’s developments. “That whole matter is before the Ethics Committee, so it will be dealt with, I assume, by Sen. Craig and the Ethics Committee,” he said.
In Minnesota, District Court Judge Charles A. Porter Jr. ruled that defendants do not have an absolute right to withdraw guilty pleas because “public policy favors the finality of judgments and courts are not disposed to encourage accused persons to ‘play games’ with the courts by setting aside judgments of conviction based upon pleas made with deliberation and accepted by the court with caution.”
Craig said he decided to plead guilty only to resolve the episode without publicity in his home state. Porter clearly didn’t buy that argument.
Meanwhile..., PennLive.com reports:
The last time U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., caught a ride about Air Force One, Pennsyltucky's senior senator violated two of the cardinal rules of traveling aboard the president's airplane.
He wandered back to talk with the press and criticized then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during a July presidential visit to Philadelphia, thereby flouting the unwritten rules against hobnobbing with the press and criticizing the president or his team.
Despite his rule violations, Specter will once again be traveling in style Wednesday when he joins President Bush aboard Air Force One for Wednesday's quick flight from Washington, D.C. to Lancaster.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., will not be making the flight.
Bush will be addressing about 400 members of the Lancaster Chamber of Business and Industry in a town hall-style meeting about spending disagreements with Congress during an hour-long forum at the new Hempfield Twp. headquarters of the Jay Group Inc.
Though Specter disagrees with the president on many of the spending fights, it's protocol to invite the local lawmakers and senators for the trip. And with his approval rating hovering around 30 percent, the president can use all the friends he can get.
Besides, it's a short trip.
What's in it for Specter besides free plane rides aboard AF1?