Senate Ethics Manual May Hold Hope for Craig
Mr. JONATHAN ALLEN (Reporter, Congressional Quarterly): I'm just looking at the Senate Ethics Manual right now and there may be a window of hope for Larry Craig's legal team right now.
ROBERT SMITH, host:
That's Jonathan Allen, reporter for Congressional Quarterly. Thanks for being with us.
So you're looking at this manual, what is the hope for Senator Larry Craig?
Mr. ALLEN: Well, the ethics manual for the Senate says that the select committee on ethics should receive complaints and investigative allegations of improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate - violations of law, violations for the Senate code of official conduct, and violation of rules and regulations of the Senate relating to the conduct of individuals and the performance of their duties as members of the Senate.
And it may be that Senator Craig's legal team will argue that in trying to get an ethics complaint dismissed that what he was doing, whatever it was he was doing in the bathroom in the Minneapolis Airport, was not within the duties that he's supposed to perform as a member the Senate and therefore not something that the ethics committee should be investigating.
SMITH: This cannot be welcome news for Republican leadership in the Senate. They really nudged him to at least announce his intention to resign in the first place, right?
Mr. ALLEN: That's right. The Senate leaders and most Republicans want this thing to go away. They want the Larry Craig story out of the news. And, of course, any indication that he intends to fight the legal battle while remaining a senator and perhaps not resigning at the end of all of that means that it will continue to be in the news. Looks like they're not getting they're wish, which was for him to quietly go away.
SMITH: Now even if his guilty plea remains and he decides to stay in the Senate, there is precedent for senators and representatives to stay with blemishes on their legal record?
Mr. ALLEN: Oh, sure. I mean, every once and a while you'd hear of small crimes being committed or drunken driving accident or something along those lines that doesn't end up costing a member their job. Certainly there's nothing in the Senate rules that requires a member to be removed because they have committed a misdemeanor. And, of course, Senator Craig has pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct in that airport bathroom.
I would say this, that there is a - the Senate can expel a member if it so chooses with the two-thirds of vote, but I think it would be a long time before that happened. It would be highly unusual to see someone expelled over a misdemeanor that does not involve any sort of corruption or abuse of office. Though, I guess one could argue that if he did, in fact, as has been reported, show his business card to the police officer that might be grounds for a making an argument that he abused his power as a senator or perhaps that he improperly used his office in this case.
SMITH: So what tools are at the disposal of Senate Republican leadership to encourage Senator Craig to continue on with his resignation?
Mr. ALLEN: Well, mostly it's the pressure that they've already applied to him, you know, in the form of removing him from his spot on the Appropriations Committee, which means he's not as capable of delivering for Idaho and not as capable of representing Idaho as he once was, in the form of not supporting him for reelection should he choose to not only continue in the Senate but to try to seek reelection.
There all sorts of small goodies and I guess sort of carrots and sticks that the Republican leadership has at its disposal, but it's mostly in the form of trying to pressure him with good reason. Generally speaking, it is difficult for party leaders to remove someone from office who is elected to that office by the voters of their state, or in the case of the House, their district.
SMITH: Is it conceivable that the Republicans could support another Republican to run against Craig in the primary?
Mr. ALLEN: Not only conceivable but I think at this point if he chooses to run for reelection, the likelihood is that they will seek to support someone else in the primary. I think that's the indication that Senator Craig was getting from officials in the top of the Republican establishment.
SMITH: Now, the Democrats have got to be loving this?
Mr. ALLEN: Yeah. You're not hearing them talk too much about it. Sometimes, when the opposing side is tripping, you just get out of the way.
SMITH: Because the concept of actually picking up a Senate seat in Idaho is unheard of for them.
Mr. ALLEN: Yes, and it may well be after 2008 as well. You know, Idaho is a very, very Republican state. And with someone other than Senator Craig on the ballot with the R next to their name, it's a difficult state for a Democrat to win in statewide. Not impossible, certainly, but it's been a while since there's been a Democratic senator from Idaho. And like I said, it's a pretty Republican state, and in the presidential year, a lot of those Republican voters will be headed to the polls.
SMITH: Jonathan Allen is watching the Senate leadership in his role as a reporter for Congressional Quarterly. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. ALLEN: Thanks for having me on the show.