Democrats defer action, hope Weiner will resign on his own

Representative said to be waiting for wife’s return

Representative Anthony Weiner, seen after leaving a June 6 conference, has been granted a two-week leave of absence. Representative Anthony Weiner, seen after leaving a June 6 conference, has been granted a two-week leave of absence. (Andrew Burton/ Getty Images)
By Andrew Miga and Larry Margasak
Associated Press / June 15, 2011

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WASHINGTON — House Democrats are counting on growing pressure from Representative Anthony Weiner’s colleagues, a suggestion from the president, and the return of the congressman’s pregnant wife from an overseas trip to persuade him to resign over a scandal in which he sent lewd photos of himself and messages to several women.

The House’s top Republican, Speaker John Boehner, joined the chorus of Democrats calling for the New York Democrat to quit. House Democrats went behind closed doors for their regular party meeting, but they decided against taking action against Weiner in hopes that he’ll resign soon.

A fellow member of Weiner’s New York Democratic delegation, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, said before the meeting, “Hopefully, we are hearing he might resign in a couple of days.’’

When she emerged later, she added: “He’s waiting for his wife to come home. That’s what we’re hearing from his friends.’’

Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, a State Department official, is due back from an overseas trip early today with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Weiner, meanwhile, has sought treatment at an undisclosed location and has been granted a two-week leave of absence from Congress.

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, repeated the suggestion after the meeting, reaffirming her earlier resignation call made while members were on recess. Pelosi said she concluded that “with the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents and the need for help . . . Congressman Weiner should resign from the Congress.’’

Representative Sander Levin, a Democrat of Michigan, said: “I think we should send a strong message to him that he should resign, and let’s see what happens. The more of us who say it, the more telling it will be.’’

But even as top Democrats tried to pressure Weiner into resigning, Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator and the Senate’s number three Democrat, has not taken a stand on whether the seven-term congressman, a longtime friend, should resign.

Asked yesterday about whether he would support whatever Weiner’s decides about his political future — even if he decides to stay — Schumer focused his comments on the personal side of Weiner’s plight.

“As I said this weekend, those of us who have been friends with Anthony Weiner for a very long time feel his wrongful behavior is distressing, saddening, and heartbreaking,’’ Schumer said. “It’s clear he needs professional help. That’s what he sought. And that’s all I’m going to say.’’

Schumer, Weiner’s political mentor, gave Weiner his first job on Capitol Hill when Schumer was a congressman.

Boehner had been content to let Democrats wrestle with the embarrassing scandal, but when asked yesterday whether Weiner should resign, responded: “Yes.’’

Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey said after the Democratic meeting that 95 percent of it concerned energy prices. Andrews said there was no discussion of stripping Weiner of his post on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a possibility Pelosi had mentioned.

President Obama spoke bluntly about Weiner in an interview.

“I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign,’’ Obama told NBC’s “Today’’ show. In a rare foray into a congressman’s ethical conduct, Obama said Weiner’s actions were “highly inappropriate.’’

“I think he’s embarrassed himself,’’ the president said. “He’s acknowledged that. He’s embarrassed his wife and his family. Ultimately, there’s going to be a decision for him and his constituents.’’

The cascade of raunchy photos and other revelations has been a distraction for Democrats seeking an edge as they look ahead to the 2012 elections. Besides Pelosi, several other Democrats have called for Weiner to quit, including party chairwoman Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.