Craig Is Expected To Resign Today

By Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer and Staff Writer
Saturday, September 1, 2007

Abandoned by his party, Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho is expected to announce today that he will resign his seat amid criticism over his arrest and guilty plea in a police sting operation in an airport men's room, according to two national Republican officials.

They said Craig began notifying party leaders of his decision last night, telling them he will step down Sept. 30.

Craig has scheduled a news conference for midday today in Boise. His spokesman, Dan Whiting, would not comment on resignation plans, saying: "He will make an announcement about his plans tomorrow morning."

Craig's resignation would not affect the makeup of the Senate, because Idaho's governor is expected to appoint another Republican to the seat. But the scandal adds to the difficulties that the GOP faces in trying win back control of the Senate in next year's elections, in which they will have to defend 22 seats, including that of Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, who announced yesterday that he will retire when his term ends in 2009.

Craig had planned to announce his reelection plans later this month. But after news of his arrest broke, GOP sources said, the National Republican Senatorial Committee told Craig that it would withdraw support for him if he continued to serve and seek reelection next year.

Though he has served in the Senate for nearly 18 years, Craig, 62, was a little-known conservative lawmaker until Monday's revelation that he had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after an encounter with an undercover police officer who was investigating complaints of lewd activity in bathroom stalls.

Fellow Republicans swiftly condemned him, fearful of the political fallout and mortified by the tabloid-style drama. Several GOP senators, including presidential candidate John McCain (Ariz.), called for Craig to step down.

On Thursday, officials at the Republican National Committee drafted a statement demanding Craig's resignation, GOP sources said, but it was not issued because senior members of the Idaho Republican Party feared that it would complicate efforts to persuade Craig to resign.

Craig did not attempt to contact party leaders in Washington all week, though in recent days he reportedly called party allies in Idaho, trying to gauge his support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Craig twice in recent days and spoke to him directly, leadership sources said. One call was on Tuesday, to tell Craig of the leadership's call for an ethics investigation, and the other was on Wednesday, to tell him he had been stripped of his position as ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and on subcommittees of the Appropriations and Energy and Natural Resources panels.

The sources said McConnell was furious about Craig's behavior and the fact that he did not inform the leadership about his arrest and guilty plea. On Thursday, McConnell told reporters in Lexington that Craig's conduct was "unforgivable."

Yesterday, McConnell's spokesman, Josh Holmes, said the GOP leader would not comment on Craig until after today's announcement.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company