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Congress: Ensign resigns

The Las Vegas Sun: “At first he stood firm: the embattled Sen. John Ensign saying that, despite investigations into his conduct, he would stand for re-election. And then, just last month, he said he would complete his term, but not seek re-election.”

“And Thursday he packed it in. Saying the personal cost of staying in office was too much to bear, the man who once was considered possible presidential material announced his resignation, effective May 3.”

The New York Times adds that Ensign’s resignation "will allow Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, to appoint a Republican to fill out the rest of the Senate term, thereby increasing the chances that the party would hold on to what may be a hotly contested seat next year. One likely candidate is Representative Dean Heller, a Republican House member already running for the job. Mr. Ensign had not been planning to run for re-election."

The Washington Post says the resignation comes “amid an ethics investigation into his conduct… The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Ensign’s handling of an affair with a former political aide whose husband was also a top legislative aide to the senator. Earlier this year, the committee hired outside counsel to begin a more formal phase, which probably would have led to a public hearing on formal allegations against the senator or the public release of its allegations.”

What next for Heller's seat, if he's appointed? "On Thursday evening, officials in the secretary of state’s office pointed reporters to a Nevada law that stated there would be no primary in the case of a House special election… Secretary of state officials also said state law might allow the state party committees to pick nominees for the special election."

The battle over federal funding for Planned Parenthood was not cheap for the women's health group. Roll Call: "For the first quarter of 2011, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America reported spending $400,000 on federal lobbying, up more than 256 percent from the same quarter just one year ago, when it spent $111,000."

The Hill points out what the budget negotiations have demonstrated about Obama's relationships with House leaders. "This year’s budget battles have forged a loose bond between President Obama and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) while revealing some distance between the White House and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)."

BUT the president also predicted at a fundraiser yesterday that Pelosi will get her old job as Speaker of the House back.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah won't support any Gang of Six deficit reduction plan that includes tax increases.