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Craig sex sting case dividing GOP senators

  • Story Highlights
  • Some senators say GOP leaders rushed to judgment
  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded at GOP luncheon
  • Idaho Sen. Larry Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charge
  • Craig vowing to overturn guilty plea, stay in Senate
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The men's room sex sting involving Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is cracking the unity of GOP senators, sources say.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky discusses the Larry Craig case Wednesday.

At the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon on Tuesday, at least three senators complained their leaders "rushed to judgment" in pulling their support of Craig after it was revealed he was arrested in June in a Minnesota airport men's room on suspicion of making sexual advances to an undercover police officer in the next stall.

In August, Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct -- but the Idaho senator now says he'll fight to have the plea thrown out and, if successful by September 30, back out on the resignation he had planned for that date.

Craig's backtracking has upset many of his Republican colleagues, a Republican leadership aide said, because GOP leaders thought they had put the scandal behind them. Video Watch how Craig is trying to gain support of colleagues »

Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Michael Enzi of Wyoming voiced their dissatisfaction with the response of GOP leaders in the chamber, according to one senator who was at the luncheon and two aides familiar with the meeting.

Stevens, whose home was recently raided as part of a federal corruption probe, stood up to say it's wrong to prejudge these matters, the sources said.

He was joined by Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, who also "wagged their finger" at the leadership, in the words of one of the aides.

But many more senators stood to defend the leaders, even greeting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky with applause when he was introduced to discuss the topic.

"A couple of people had differences of opinion with leadership, but the overwhelming number who stood up supported the leaders," the leadership aide said.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, whose surprise call for Craig to withdraw his guilty plea and fight to save his seat was key to Craig reconsidering his resignation, also addressed the meeting -- which included Vice President Dick Cheney, who regularly attends.

Specter refused to say what he told his colleagues, but of the aides said he was not critical of the leadership.

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Specter has declined repeatedly to comment further on the Craig case.

One GOP leadership aide said Specter may be "chagrined" by what he started. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ted Barrett and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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