Sen. Craig Decision Poses Dilemma for GOP

The White House reacted to the decision by embattled Republican Senator Larry Craig's decision to stay in the Senate despite the fact the Idaho senator announced last month his intention to step down.

"We think this is a decision between senator Craig, his constituents, his colleagues in the senate and it's a decision for him to make and them to decide," said White House spokesperson Tony Fratto on Friday.

Last month President Bush talked to Craig by phone when he announced his intention to resign his seat, and the President told him he made the right decision.

"We had said we believe he made the right decision for himself and his constituents and that hasn't changed but at this point it's a decision for sen Craig, his colleagues and constituents of [Idaho] ... I don't think our position has changed, but it's something that has to be worked out in the Senate," Fratto said.

Craig Decision Raises Ire of GOP Colleagues

Arousing the ire of his Republican colleagues, Craig reneged on a pledge to resign from the Senate, announcing Thursday afternoon that despite a judge's refusal to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, he would remain in the Senate. A member of the Senate Republican leadership immediately denounced Craig's decision, calling the situation "embarrassing" and suggesting that Craig's change of mind was dishonorable.

The conservative Republican was arrested in June in a men's room sex sting operation near the Snoopy statue at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Charged with disorderly conduct, Craig pleaded guilty in August and since then has established a pattern of pledging to resign and then changing his mind.

Craig cited three reasons why he would remain in the Senate, while fellow Republicans have suggested in strong terms that he should leave. Craig claims that since he returned to the Senate three weeks ago, "I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively."

Senate leaders last month stripped Craig of leadership roles on committee assignments while he remains under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. Craig also cited his "seniority and important committee assignments that are valuable to Idaho" as a reason he will remain.

"A replacement would be highly unlikely to obtain these posts" on the Appropriations Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Craig explained.

Craig also said he would remain in the Senate in an "effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee - something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate."

GOP Colleagues Call on Craig to 'Keep His Word' on Senate Resignation

The decision did not seem to go over well among Republicans on the Hill, many of whom have made it clear they want Craig to go.

"He ought to keep his word," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

"It's a distraction," said Sen. John Thune, R-SD.

"The original decision (to resign) was the right thing to do," added Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.

But by far the harshest words came from Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in remarks many interpreted to be reflective of what Senate GOP Leadership as a whole feels.

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