April 4, 2010 / 8:43 PM / 7 years ago

Republicans withhold confidence in Steele

<p>Michael Steele speaks during a news conference after being elected Republican National Committee chairman in Washington January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior congressional Republicans on Sunday declined to express confidence in Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele after revelations that the RNC spent $2,000 entertaining potential contributors at a sex-themed nightclub.

The controversy over Steele’s leadership of the Republican National Committee comes as the party is hoping to seize back control of the U.S. Congress from President Barack Obama’s Democrats in November congressional elections. But Steele’s stewardship of the RNC is threatening to distract Republicans at a pivotal time.

Asked whether Steele should step down, Senator Jon Kyl, the Senate’s number two Republican, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program: “I‘m not in the position of the people who elect Michael Steele to either say he should step down or not.”

But Kyl added, “This kind of thing has got to stop or they won’t get any contributions.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy, a member of the House of Representatives Republican leadership, appearing on the same program, said Steele was not immediately responsible for the nightclub incident and was trying to remedy RNC missteps.

But McCarthy added, “You’ve got to bring the trust back, and that may mean shaking some other roles inside the RNC as well.”

Steele has faced criticism for lavish spending by the Republican National Committee. For example, the RNC last month was forced to explain a $2,000 tab for entertaining young Republicans at a bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood that ended up costing an RNC staffer her job.

Some prominent Republicans have stepped up criticism of the RNC under Steele as it is working to build cash reserves for the November mid-term congressional elections.

Asked directly if he had full confidence in Steele, McCarthy sidestepped the question.

“Look, I‘m very focused on House races, but the RNC does have some challenges that they need to correct. Not only does the American people request it but the Republicans requested it as well,” McCarthy said.

Reporting by Vicki Allen; Editing by Will Dunham

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