WASHINGTON — The second-ranking Senate Republican offered no support Sunday for embattled Sen. John Ensign, facing renewed criticism over an extramarital affair with an aide and the actions he took on behalf of her husband.
Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if Ensign can serve effectively or should step down, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., did not address his colleague's future and said he would await a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Kyl's sidestep followed on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's repeated refusals on Friday to answer questions about Ensign or pledge any support.
The New York Times reported in Friday's editions that the woman's husband, Doug Hampton, lobbied Ensign on behalf of his clients – a job that Ensign had helped him to get. Congressional aides are prohibited by law from lobbying their former bosses or office colleagues for one year after leaving their employment.
Hampton told the Times that he and Ensign were aware of a ban on lobbying Ensign and his staff but chose to ignore it.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the committee, told CNN that there is a preliminary investigation of Ensign's actions. "We will look at all aspects of this case, as we do whenever there is a case before us, and try to get to the bottom of it as quickly as we can in fairness to all," said Boxer, D-Calif.
Ensign acknowledged in July that he had had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, a former campaign staffer and once one of his top Senate aides. News reports later detailed how the Nevada Republican tried to hide the affair by finding a consulting and lobbying job for Doug Hampton, arranging for a $96,000 payment to the couple, and promoting his mistress and raising her pay around the time of their affair.
Ensign has said he did nothing illegal and would run for re-election in 2012.