- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2011

The senior party leaders on the Senate Ethics Committee have commended Sen. John Ensign for his decision to resign amid a sex and lobbying scandal.

In a joint statement released late Thursday night by committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, and Vice Chairman Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, the senators said that Mr. Ensign “has made the appropriate decision.”

“The Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion,” the pair wrote.

Mr. Ensign, a Nevada Republican, said last month he wouldn’t seek re-election for a third term in 2012. Then on Thursday he announced he was stepping down May 3, citing the toll the investigation has taken on his family and constituents.

Mr. Ensign said he will send a letter making the resignation official to Vice President Joe Biden on Friday. The action would trigger the winding down of the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation of the senator, though the panel may release a final public finding of its probe later.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval will appoint someone to serve the remainder of Mr. Ensign’s term.

Mr. Ensign, 53, admitted in 2009 to having an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton, a member of his campaign staff at the time. The senator is accused of helping the aide’s husband, Doug Hampton, set up as a lobbyist after he found out about the affair.

Federal law bars former Senate aides from lobbying in the Senate for a year after they leave their congressional jobs.

The Justice Department previously dropped a criminal investigation of the senator.

Mr. Ensign has insisted he had done nothing legally wrong.

“I was hopeful that, with the closure of these investigations against me, the wear and tear on my family and me would soon be over,” said Mr. Ensign in a statement Thursday. “This was not the case.”

The race to fill Mr. Ensign’s seat is already is heating up. Nevada Republican Rep. Dean Heller last month announced his candidacy. Mr. Heller long had been considered the GOP’s leading candidate should Ensign step down.

Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley has been rumored to be exploring a run for the seat on the Democratic side.

Many expect Mr. Sandoval to appoint Mr. Heller, giving him a decided advantage heading into next year’s election season. The governor endorsed Mr. Heller minutes after his campaign announcement.

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