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Senate Floor Offers Refuge for Embattled Ensign

Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) political future remained unclear late Thursday while his Senate colleagues largely avoided questions over revelations that Ensign’s father paid nearly $100,000 to the family of his former mistress after her husband discovered the relationship.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) both declined to comment late Thursday following a long series of votes on the Homeland Security appropriations bill.With the Senate engaged in a series of seven consecutive votes Thursday night, Ensign was able to go about his business on the Senate floor without running a media gauntlet that awaited him outside.His colleagues were also eager to avoid the topic, and by and large declined to comment on Ensign’s admission that his family made a series of $12,000 payments to his mistress, Cynthia Hampton, her husband, Doug, and their three children last year.Even those who would discuss the scandal said it remains unclear what effect it will have on his political career.“Well, it’s not good, but it’s really not an issue for me. It’s something for him to work through,— National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said. Cornyn added that while he has not heard talk among his colleagues about the need for Ensign to resign, it is unclear whether the Nevadan can weather this political storm.“I just don’t know the answer to that question,— he said.One Nevada GOP consultant said that, after Thursday’s revelations, Ensign now seems to be suffering more from the unknown than the known — for instance, the Ensign family says it made a series of $12,000 payments to the Hamptons, totaling some $96,000 dollars. But this source said the math on those figures does not appear to add up and expressed concern that there were additional, still-undisclosed payments.“Watching the money trail is going to be important— in the coming days, the consultant said. “The sense is it’s still not over.—Asked if the idea of an Ensign resignation might be on the table, the consultant said, “It certainly is, from the calls I’ve gotten today.—The key players to watch in Nevada Republican circles will be Gov. Jim Gibbons, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Rep. Dean Heller. A resignation demand from any of those Silver State GOP leaders would indicate that Ensign’s support back home is crumbling.

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