BOISE, Idaho — Sen. Larry Craig is reconsidering his decision to resign after his arrest in a Minnesota airport sex sting and may still fight for his Senate seat, his spokesman said Tuesday evening.
“It’s not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign,” Sidney Smith, Craig’s spokesman in Idaho’s capital, told The Associated Press.
“We’re still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign Sept. 30, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact on whether we’re able to stay in the fight — and stay in the Senate,” Smith said.
Craig, a Republican who has represented Idaho in Congress for 27 years, announced Saturday that he intends to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30. But since then, he’s hired a prominent lawyer to investigate the possibility of reversing his plea, his spokesman said.
Craig was a no-show Tuesday as Congress reconvened after a summer break and it wasn’t clear whether he’ll return at all since deciding to resign over his guilty plea in a sex sting this summer at the Minneapolis airport.
Another spokesman, Dan Whiting in Washington, said Tuesday that Craig was expected to spend the week in Idaho as the Senate votes on spending bills for veterans and other programs. Whiting did not rule out Craig’s returning to Washington before the end of the month.
A telephone call Craig received last week from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urging him to consider fighting for his seat is affecting Craig’s decision to reconsider his resignation, Smith said.
“It was a little more cut and dried a few days ago,” Smith said. “There weren’t many options. He was basically going to have to step aside. Now, there’s a little more to it.”
On Tuesday, Specter, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Craig’s GOP colleagues who pressured him last week to resign should re-examine the facts surrounding his arrest June 11.
“The more people take a look at the situation, there may well be second thoughts,” said Specter, a former prosecutor. If Craig had not pleaded guilty in August to a reduced charge and instead demanded a trial, “I believe he would have been exonerated,” Specter said.
Craig gave up his senior positions on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Appropriations veterans subcommittee last week, at the request of Senate Republican leaders. The Senate began debating the veterans spending bill Tuesday.
Craig came under a steady drumbeat of criticism from Republicans in the days before he announced that for the good of the people of Idaho, he would step down Sept. 30.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Craig’s actions “unforgivable” after the White House termed the situation disappointing. Republican Senate colleagues John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota said Craig should resign.
With Republicans defending nearly twice as many seats as Democrats in 2008, Nevada Sen. John Ensign, chairman of the Senate GOP’s election effort, said he would resign if was in Craig’s circumstances but stopped short of saying the Idahoan should give up his seat. Craig’s third six-year term in the Senate expires in January 2009.