Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is resigning from his seat in the U.S. Senate. In a statement released by his office Thursday evening, Ensign said his last day as a Senator will be May 3.
"It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years," Ensign said in the statement. "The turbulence of these last few years is greatly surpassed by the incredible privilege that I feel to have been entrusted to serve the people of Nevada. I can honestly say that being a United States Senator has been the honor of my life."
Ensign had already announced he wouldn't be seeking a third term in 2012, after his current term was marred by scandal involving an affair with the wife of a longtime friend and former staffer. The scandal put Ensign in the sights of the Senate Ethics Committee.
Now, it seems, Ensign will bring his time in the Senate to an end even earlier than had been expected. In his statement, Ensign eluded to the numerous investigations that have plagued him since he publicly admitted an extramarital affair in 2009.
"While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate, and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings," Ensign said. "For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great."
He noted that both Justice Department and Federal Elections Commission investigators have dropped their probes, though the Senate Ethics Committee had continued digging. Ethics Committee rules mean Ensign's resignation will bring an end to that investigation as well.
Ensign took a swipe at the Senate committee in his statement.
"As is its right, the Senate Ethics Committee is continuing its investigation of issues into which it has been inquiring for the past year and a half," he said. "Indeed, the Committee even decided recently to devote more resources to its investigation by hiring an outside counsel even though the issues have been viewed and reviewed by so many others."
Nevada political guru John Ralston first tweeted the news Thursday afternoon that Ensign would step down.
Ralston writes that Ensign's resignation will pave the way for Rep. Dean Heller (R) to take his place. Heller has been the frontrunner in the race to replace Ensign next year, and Ralston writes that appointing him to the seat now could help avoid a painful primary. Democrats have rallied behind Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who announced her campaign last week.
And by "avoid a painful primary" everyone means "Oh God, don't tell Sharron Angle." Still, this means Ensign is gone, and so is the investigation against him. Will we ever find out the dirt that made him quit now rather than weather out the storm?
Count on it.