Tuesday, March 5, 2002 | 10:34 a.m.
- BREAKING NEWS: Ensign acknowledges extramarital affair (6-16-2009)
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., returned to the nation's capital Monday but did not offer details about why he took two weeks off from his job in Congress to tend to a "personal matter."
"I'm not making any comments one way or the other," Ensign said this morning. "I'm just asking people to respect my privacy."
Ensign, 43, dropped out of the public arena Feb. 15 after President Bush formally approved the Yucca Mountain project. The following week he did not surface during a congressional recess, missing high-profile events that included Nevada visits by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Ensign aides have said they would make no comment on the senator's absence other than to say that it was a personal matter. Neither they nor Ensign offered any further information.
Ensign spokeswomen Traci Scott said even his staff doesn't know the details of why the senator was out.
"He guards his privacy," she said. "We've been told it was a personal matter."
Ensign arrived Monday and is catching up quickly today on what he missed.
He said he worked from home over the last two weeks and made plenty of phone calls.
"It wasn't like I was completely out of the loop," Ensign said.
He said he would meet with the rest of the state's congressional delegation on strategy to fight Yucca Mountain.
Ensign missed Senate sessions last week, including a debate on an election reform bill. Ensign missed five relatively minor votes during the week.
Last year Ensign missed 11 of 380 Senate votes, according to Congressional Observer Publications, which tracks voting.