Sources confirmed this afternoon that embattled U.S. Sen. John Ensign will resign from office on Friday, opening the door for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to appoint Rep. Dean Heller to finish out the term.
If Heller is appointed, it would give him a strategic leg up as an incumbent against his presumed opponent in the 2012 Senate race, Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley. Berkley is still expected to run.
Ensign's political star fell two years when he revealed he had an affair with a campaign aide, a scandal for which he remains under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.
It's unclear whether the ongoing investigation played a role in Ensign's resignation, or whether he was stepping down early at the behest of the Nevada GOP in order to benefit Heller, the party's presumptive nominee for 2012.
The move is implicitly political on the GOP's part in an effort to keep the Nevada Senate seat. Senator Ensign, a member of the notorious C Street Christian fellowship, had already noted that he would not seek re-election next year in the wake of his lascivious conduct that led to Senate Ethics panel investigation that remains ongoing. Rep. Dean Heller, who represents the sprawling Nevada Second Congressional District that covers most of the state except the southern areas around Las Vegas, was expected to seek the seat. Now rather seek election to an open seat, he'll enjoy the benefit of being the incumbent.
Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who represents the Nevada First Congressional District that includes Las Vegas, announced earlier this month that she would seek the seat.
Kudos to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and the women of the Senate Democratic caucus who took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to rise in defense of reproductive rights. You also got to love the not so subtle dig at Arizona Senator Jon Kyl for his gross indecency for claiming on the Senate floor that "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" was provide abortions when the actual number is just three percent. Senator Kyl's office later and laughably issued a statement that Senator Kyl had not intended his remarks to be a factual statement.
Here is Senator Gillibrand's astute and well placed jab:
For my friends and colleagues, this is a factual statement. Current law already prevents federal money from paying for abortions. This has been the law of the land for over 30 years. Shutting down the government for a political argument is not only outrageous, it is irresponsible. The price for keeping the government open is this assault on women's rights.
The New York Observer writes that "Gillibrand seems to have gotten a little more aggressive over the past few months, emboldened maybe by having been elected to the upper chamber, but more likely just stirred up by the Republican House, which has made a particular point of going after women's issues." Whatever the reason, Senator Gillibrand's voice is a welcomed arrival on the national scene. She is everything a United States Senator should be: smart, passionate yet measured, focused on issues of human dignity, and above all factual. I have always held that when we stick to the facts we win. The Democrats have a winner in Kirsten Gillibrand.
Kudos to Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert for keeping the pressure on Arizona Senator John Kyl for his gross indecency on his non-factual claim made on the Senate dais during last week's budget showdown that abortion services are "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” In fact, abortion represents only three percent of Planned Parenthood services.
After Think Progress pointed out the glaring factual error, a Kyl spokesperson said that the Senator's remark on the dais of the Senate "was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions.” How a Senator, and who as the Minority Whip is the number two in the Republican leadership in the Senate, could go on the dais of the Senate make such an outlandish statement and then hide behind the even more buffoonish defense that such a falsehood was not intended to be a factual statement is reprehensible. Senator Kyl merits a formal reprimand from the Senate. Facts are not just stubborn things, they should be sacrosanct.
After skewering Senator Kyl on his show, The Colbert Report, the comedian has taken to Twitter with a series of non-factual statements about the junior Senator from Arizona.
No less egregious, boy I am overusing this word these days but what isn't egregious these days, was the claim made by the anchors of Fox & Friends that Planned Parenthood's services could be found at any Walgreens. While the right has long been prone to untruths, the lies are getting more desperately and patently absurd. Let's hope the American people are paying attention.
Still I've been monitoring the Arizona press and while the story has been carried in both the Phoenix and Tuscon newspapers, neither paper has come out with an editorial lambasting the Senator Kyl for his blatant disregard for facts. It's a sorry state of affairs when late night comedians have to do the work that the media should be doing, lambasting what is clearly unacceptable in a political debate. If we abandon the truth, what else have we?