WASHINGTON -- Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens returned to work Wednesday morning as though it were just another day in the Senate.
For the 84-year-old Alaska Republican, whose indictment on Tuesday was national news, the only obvious difference was the bigger-than-usual crowd of reporters and photographers trailing him all day. He attended a Homeland Security committee meeting, voted twice, and strode the halls of the Capitol, smiling, with aides and a few interns in tow.
When asked whether he had considered resigning, Stevens said nothing but smiled and kept walking. He told reporters they were "wasting their time," and that the written statement Tuesday in which he proclaimed his innocence would be all they would hear from him.
Stevens will be arraigned this afternoon in federal District Court in Washington, D.C., where he faces seven counts of making false statements by failing to disclose "things of value" he received over the past eight years from Veco Corp., the now-defunct Anchorage-based oil services and construction company, and from its chairman, Bill Allen.
The indictment charged that Stevens received substantial benefits from his relationship with Veco that he never disclosed, including improvements to his home in Girdwood, household appliances and an automobile exchange in which he received a new Land Rover worth far more than his 35-year-old Mustang.
The arraignment hearing should be short, since little generally happens beyond asking defendants to face their charges and enter a plea. At some point, Stevens will be booked, too, but it's not clear when. That booking process includes fingerprinting and a mug shot, an FBI spokeswoman said Wednesday.
EFFECT ON EARMARKS?
In the Senate, little about his day-to-day routine is expected to change, although only one day remains before Congress adjourns for the summer. When Stevens returns, it will be after the Aug. 26 primary election.
Although Stevens lost his leadership posts on the Senate Commerce Committee and on a defense spending subcommittee, he remains a member of both committees. As a member of Appropriations committee, he will keep having the ability to advocate for Alaska, which means that his legendary ability to earmark might not be hampered that much.
He will no longer be writing the defense appropriations bill, however, something he has done for two decades with his close friend, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. That task will be taken over by the top Republican on the full Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
But even out of his leadership positions, Alaska still has "friends in high places, like Sen. Inouye of Hawaii," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C., budget watchdog group that spotlights what it considers wasteful federal spending. "In no way is the earmark tap dry. It may be a low-flow tap, but it's still going to be draining to Alaska."
And on the campaign trail, not much is expected to change, either. Stevens said Tuesday he planned to move "full steam ahead." He is expected to attend an Aug. 12 fundraiser in Fairbanks with Republican Rep. Don Young, said Young's campaign spokesman, Mike Anderson. The two campaigns work together when they can, Anderson said.
"Mr. Young is going to support him, just like both senators have been helping him out and supporting him," Anderson said. "Mr. Young is loyal to his friends. It's kind of like having a family."
Young, Alaska's sole congressman since 1973, also is the subject of a federal probe but has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He has reported spending more than $1.2 million in campaign funds on unspecified lawyer fees since last year.
CLASHED WITH MCCAIN
On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush hadn't spoken to Sen. Stevens, and as far as she knew, has no plans to. Stevens attended a bill signing last week at the White House, where he and other lawmakers posed for a photo with the president when he signed a telecommunications bill into law.
"The president has worked with Sen. Stevens for many years," Perino said. "Obviously he is innocent under our system of justice until proven otherwise. And so we'll let the Justice Department handle the legal matter and not comment on it further."
The harshest words came from a spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who told reporters on his campaign plane that "like every American, Sen. Stevens is entitled to the presumption of innocence."
McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace said that the two have "clashed famously over the appropriations process that Sen. McCain views as broken and subject to the type of corruption that has caused voters to lose faith with Washington ... and as Sen. McCain mentions on the campaign trail nearly daily, has resulted in former members of Congress residing in prison."
Wallace added that the Arizona senator has "fought loudly, and often alone, against corruption and wasteful spending."
"This is a sad reminder that the next president will have his work cut out for him in rebuilding public trust by ending once and for all pork-barrel spending, and by reforming the federal government top to bottom," she said.
'HE'S MY FRIEND'
Other senators, including Democrats, were more charitable when Stevens came to work as usual Wednesday.
Stevens' longtime friend, Inouye, said they spoke Wednesday on the Senate floor, but it was about "nothing substantive." Inouye said he spoke personally to Stevens on Tuesday, after news broke of the indictment.
"I just told him that he's my friend," Inouye said as he left the Senate chambers.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's junior Republican senator, also spoke to Stevens on the floor of the Senate.
Even those who have already sent Stevens' campaign donations to charity because of the controversy greeted him warmly in the Capitol on Wednesday. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., turned away Stevens' $10,000 in donations Tuesday, within hours of his indictment. But she welcomed the Alaska Republican with a big hug when they shared a ride in the subway that leads from the Hart Office Building to the Capitol.
There also doesn't appear to be any effort by Senate GOP leaders to call for Stevens to resign or to end his re-election bid -- a bold request that almost no one in the Senate has the authority to ask the veteran senator to do.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, declined to comment Wednesday on his way in and out of the Senate chamber.
Stevens has stepped down temporarily from his leadership posts on two committees, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the head of the Senate Republican Conference, and that is all they'll ask of him, Alexander said.
"I think it's a very sad situation and it's very serious," Alexander said. "He's already taken the steps that are required under the conference rules."