WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Ensign on Friday resisted calls for his resignation, saying he is trying to get back in the good graces of constituents, friends and family amid investigations growing from his extramarital affair.
"I have learned a great deal from this and I am trying to become a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better friend and a better senator," Ensign said. "I am working hard to do that and that is what I am going to continue to try to do."
Ensign, R-Nev., commented briefly during a telephone interview from Pakistan where he and four other lawmakers were wrapping up a weeklong trip that included two days in Afghanistan.
He would not say directly whether he was thinking of stepping down in light of calls for his resignation this week from two former Clark County Republican officials.
He also demurred when asked if he thought that ongoing ethics and criminal investigations of his office were dragging Republicans nationally and in Nevada, as some GOP members are saying.
"I will let people speak for themselves," Ensign said. "I am trying to be helpful to my party and I am trying to do the job the people of Nevada elected me to do. I will let other people make those kind of judgments.
"I know one thing, that I have said all along, I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused people and I know it has caused a lot of people pain. I am very, very sorry for that. I am trying to do the best job I can do to make up for that, and I am going to continue to try to do that."
While Ensign was overseas, there was fresh debate among Republicans in Nevada this week whether he can be effective while under an ethics cloud from the fallout of the extramarital affair with the wife of his friend and administrative assistant Doug Hampton for parts of 2007 and 2008.
Ensign is being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, and by the Justice Department that is looking into whether he helped Hampton skirt a one-year lobbying "cooling off" period in an effort to make things right after Hampton discovered the affair and left Ensign's staff in late April 2008.
Additionally, a handful of Las Vegas prepaid credit card companies have been subpoenaed to provide documents to investigators who are reportedly checking whether executives were requested to make political donations or hire Hampton when they approached Ensign for help on an industry matter in 2008.
In a television appearance Wednesday, Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., described Ensign as "wounded ... I think that is a cause for concern."
"Will it have impact up and down the ticket for Republicans this fall? I think there is a potential of that happening," Heller said.
The same day, former Clark County GOP Chairman Richard Scotti and former party Treasurer Swadeep Nigam wrote on the Nevada News and Views Web site that Ensign should go.
"Let's stop ignoring the problem," they wrote. "The only way the Ensign problem for the GOP will go away is if enough of us call for his resignation."
Other Republicans have said the investigations should be allowed to move forward toward a determination of Ensign's innocence or guilt on ethics and criminal accusations.
In Pakistan, Ensign said he wanted to keep working.
"You can see I am over here doing my job that I was elected to do," he said. "Things are going to turn out however they are going to turn out. All I am going to do is try to do the best job I can."
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.