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.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again must be freshman Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's motto. Though the New York Senator failed to rally enough co-sponsors for a temporary suspension of the Don't Ask Don't Tell ban that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the US Military, Senator Gillibrand has secured the commitment of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to hold hearings on the ban when Congress returns in the Fall. Talk about having an impact and not taking no for an answer.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is announcing that the Senate Armed Services Committee is agreeing to hold a Senate hearing on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy in the Armed Forces this fall. According to a report from the Center for American Progress released last month, since President Barack Obama took office, 265 men and women have been dismissed from the Armed Forces because of the DADT policy.
"This policy is wrong for our national security and wrong for the moral foundation upon which our country was founded,'" Senator Gillibrand said. "I thank Chairman Levin for agreeing to hold this important hearing. Numerous military leaders are telling us that the times have changed. `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women. By repealing this policy, we will increase America's strength - both militarily and morally."
Nearly 13,000 service members have been discharged for their sexual orientation since 1993, when the policy was first instituted. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the policy cost the Armed Forces approximately $95.4 million in recruiting costs and $95.1 million for training replacements for the 9,488 troops that were discharged from 1994 through 2003.
According to a Gallup Poll from May of this year, 69 percent of Americans favor military service by openly gay men and lesbians.
More than 100 retired U.S. military leaders - including the former head of the Naval Academy -signed on to a statement last November calling for an end to DADT policy.
Last month, Senator Gillibrand met with Lt. Dan Choi, a constituent, who was dismissed from the Armed Forces because of the DADT policy. Senator Gillibrand pledged to work with him to repair the damage that has been done to his career and spare thousands of innocent, brave men and women from the same injustice.
Senator Gillibrand is a tireless advocate of progressive causes and showing true leadership on this and other issues (did you read her call for a public option?). And she's getting results. As a measure of her success, it should be noted that these hearings will be the first official review of the DADT policy since Congress passed the law in 1993.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sits down with former Governor and former DNC Chairman Dr. Howard Dean for a short conversation. Afterward, Governor Dean endorses Senator Gillibrand in her re-election bid.
Well I want to thank Kirsten for the time she gave to do the interview. I asked her to do the interview because I'm considering endorsements in the United States Senate race in New York. So I'll tell you one very quick story about Kirsten Gillibrand.
She was elected in 2006, and I spent four years in Washington - and a lot of people in Washington say a lot of things and usually don't do anything about it. She came in about two and a half year ago when she was a representative and told me when I was chairman of the DNC that she wanted to do something for women through the Women's Leadership Forum. And I thought to myself, this is really great, but I'll bet it'll never happen.
She's the only person in four years that came to me, made a promise, and then brought six of her women colleagues in the House then, to raise money for the Democratic National Committee so we could have this big majority in the House and this big majority in the Senate.
And today, she's satisfied me that she knows how to use that majority in order to get things done. So I'm pleased to endorse Kirsten Gillibrand for the United States Senate for her re-election.
It is a well-deserved endorsement. Of all freshman Senators, Senator Gillibrand is working the most visibly on issues dear to the progressive base of the Democratic Party.