Now, it seems, Ensign will bring his time in the Senate to an end even earlier than had been expected. In his statement, Ensign alluded 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.
Ensign's announcement follows reports detailing just how far he had been pushed from the circles of poltical power after his admissions of infidelity -- and accusations of a subsequent coverup attempt. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Wednesday Ensign's short-lived reelection bid "yielded less than $100,000 over two months." The paper reported "about two dozen or so Washington-based lobbyists and representatives of political action committees linked to communications" attended three DC fundraisers Ensign held early last year.
"For a senator serving on the PAC-lucrative Senate Finance Committee and as the top Republican on a communications subcommittee with jurisdiction over the big-dollar world of high tech, the draw was glaringly low," the paper reported.
Read Ensign's full statement:
It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years. 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.
I know that my staff has been devoted to helping those in our state when they needed our assistance the most, and I hope that this will be the enduring legacy that we leave behind. As I close the door to this chapter of my life, I am left with memories that I will forever treasure. Traveling across our state during the years, I have heard incredible stories of strength, of struggle, and of compassion. I have met people who have forever changed me, and I can say that I will go through life a better person because of the struggle that I have been through and the support that I have received.
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. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.
I am gratified that, after extended investigations, both the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission saw no grounds on which to charge me with improper conduct. I was hopeful that, with the closure of these investigations against me the wear and tear on my family and me would soon be over. This was not the case.
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. 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.
I came to office with the pledge to make this country a better place, but that pledge does not end with my resignation. I will continue to fight for a better country and for a future that our children deserve. I cannot fully express what serving the people of Nevada has meant to me, but I will try to repay them for their trust for the rest of my life.
To the people of Nevada, I humbly say thank you for what you have given to me through the years. To my family, thank you for the support and love that you have shown me. To my staff, thank you for coming on this incredible journey with me and for standing by me despite the obstacles.