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Ensign Steps Down From GOP Leadership Post

A Republican official tells CBS News that Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, is stepping aside as Republican Policy Committee chairman, the fourth highest-ranking Republican position in the Senate.

Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair during a news conference in Las Vegas yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement after the news: "He's accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to his family and constituents. He offered, and I accepted, his resignation as chairman of the Policy Committee."

As CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris reported in Hotsheet's Politics Today, multiple reports have said that Ensign had an affair with the woman, who worked on his campaign and for his political action committee and that she is married to a former senior member of his Senate staff. The affair occurred between December 2007 and August 2008; both the husband and wife haven't worked for Ensign since May of last year.

Several reports say that Ensign came clean after either the husband or the wife demanded money from the senator.

The fallout for Ensign could be significant, Chaggaris reported. Considered a rising star in the Republican Party, he was appointed the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee after heading the party's largely unsuccessful senatorial election efforts last year. Ensign just recently made several stops in Iowa and his visit sparked talk of a potential 2012 presidential run, which may now be in jeopardy.

Ensign is up again for Senate in 2012 and, even before his admission, he would have a lot of work to do if he chooses to run for re-election; he won in '06 with only 55 percent of the vote against the outraised and outgunned son of former President Jimmy Carter, Jack Carter.

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