Sunday, September 30, 2007

GOP Is Ready to Roll Out the Klieg Lights for Craig

Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is a tough guy to run out of town.

Not that his Republican colleagues aren't trying. Worried that the disgraced lawmaker intends to remain in the Senate indefinitely, they are threatening to notch up the public humiliation by seeking an open ethics hearing on the restroom scandal that enveloped Craig last month.

The Senate hearing would examine the original charges in Craig's case, including the allegation of "interference with privacy," for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined "witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights." The committee also could look for "a pattern of conduct" - which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven't come to light.
The call for a public hearing is not unprecedented. In 1995, the Senate narrowly rejected holding an open forum to examine sexual misconduct allegations against Bob Packwood (R-Ore.). The Democrat who called for the open Packwood hearing? Barbara Boxer (Calif.), the current chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.
While his lawyer was in Minnesota last week trying to persuade a judge to throw out the senator's guilty plea, Craig was a regular presence on the Senate floor, backslapping colleagues during votes and, at one point, conducting a private conversation with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has urged Craig in no uncertain terms to leave the Senate. Craig's wife, Suzanne, also made an appearance at a Senate spouses' lunch.
"I do not think it is healthy for the U.S. Senate to be put through a public type of hearing on this type of an ethics complaint, but that is ultimately going to be his decision, because we are very limited on what we can do," said Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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