That non-aggression pact that Nevada senators Harry Reid and John Ensign have long maintained could be breaking down — under the strain of the Republican’s personal woes.
Ensign is pulling out all the stops to hold onto his job in the wake of admitting to an affair with the wife of a top aide. And that evidently means coming close to ditching the agreement that he and Reid, a Democrat, have long held to, wherein they avoid criticizing each other.
Ensign this week told a friendly radio interviewer that one reason he needs to stay in the Senate is to help his party beat Reid, the Senate leader, who is up for re-election in 2010.
If I resign we will have a second Senate race. The people who want to defeat Harry Reid should think about that. Another race would take attention and resources away from the Reid race. You would have a splitting of resources, and I think that hurts the conservative cause.
And last month Ensign said he would campaign for Reid’s GOP opponent.
Ensign denied to The Hill yesterday that he had broken the pact. “I didn’t say anything against Sen. Reid; we still have a great relationship,” he said. “I was just pointing out that is something for people who are calling for me to resign [to consider], that it’s a factor.”
And Reid, too, appeared untroubled. “It hasn’t changed anything with me,” he said. The two senators still plan to throw their annual joint office party later this month.
But Ensign’s recent comments appear to have gone way beyond anything either man has said before about the other.
A full end to the pact would be a good thing. It has always served the political interests of both men at the cost of the public’s right to a robust political debate. After all, Reid and Ensign disagree about most issues. They should oppose each other. But for now what’s clear is that Ensign’s political desperation is driving him to test the limits of the deal.