The political career of Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho appeared to be collapsing Wednesday as fellow Republicans called for his resignation and party leaders ousted him from his committee leadership posts amid the fallout over his arrest in a men’s room and his guilty plea in the case.
A statement by the Senate Republican leadership said Craig had “agreed to comply” with a request to step down as the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on interior and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on public lands and forests.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the Ethics Committee,” the statement said. It was issued by Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader; Trent Lott of Mississippi, the whip; Jon Kyl of Arizona, the conference chairman, and other prominent Republicans.
Craig will retain membership on the committees, but will have no more power than a freshman senator, even though he is nearing the end of his third term and was himself in the party leadership not so long ago.
Several Republicans called for Craig to resign, among them Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.
“My position is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn’t serve,” McCain said in an interview on CNN. “That’s not a moral stand. That’s not holier-than-thou. It’s just a factual situation.”
Coleman issued a statement saying that Craig had pleaded guilty to “a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator. He should resign.”
Hoekstra said: “The voters of Idaho elected Sen. Craig to represent their state and will decide his future in 2008, should he fail to resign. However, he also represents the Republican Party, and I believe that he should step down, as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a United States senator.”
A White House spokesman, Scott Stenzel, when asked about President Bush’s view of the Craig affair, replied, “We are disappointed in the matter.”
The lack of party support for Craig seemed to signal a collective desire that he go away, rather than offer Democrats another example of behavior lapses by Republicans.