U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged his Democratic counterparts to consider stripping New York Representative Anthony Weiner of his committee post if he doesn’t heed bipartisan calls for his resignation.
Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said today there was little the House could do to force Weiner’s resignation because “members, they have a right to do whatever.” Still, he said that as part of efforts by Democratic leaders to pressure Weiner to quit, “I am hoping they will move toward things like perhaps stripping him of his committees” because “we obviously have other issues to be concerned with.”
Weiner said through a spokeswoman on June 11 that he was taking a leave of absence from Congress and seeking “professional treatment” following a pattern of behavior that included sending suggestive messages and lewd photos of himself to women he had met online.
He serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is headed by Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and has duties that include oversight of the telecommunications and health-care industries.
Top Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, have called on Weiner to resign.
“His leaders should do everything they can to bring him to that point, if he is not already,” Cantor said at his weekly news conference. His comments came as the House returned from a week-long recess during which Weiner apologized at a New York news conference for sending the messages and photos via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.
At the June 6 news conference, Weiner said he had made “terrible mistakes” and acknowledged previously lying by telling reporters he had been the victim of a hacker’s prank.
“This is bizarre, unacceptable behavior,” House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said yesterday of Weiner’s actions on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “It seems to me extraordinarily difficult that he can proceed to represent his constituents in an effective way given the circumstances.”
Hoyer said he hoped Weiner would “reflect upon whether or not he can effectively proceed. I don’t see how he can, and I hope he would make that judgment.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney called Weiner’s actions “inappropriate” today while refusing to say whether President Barack Obama would join calls from Democratic congressional leaders for the New York lawmaker to resign.
“We feel at the White House this is a distraction,” Carney told reporters traveling with the president to an event in North Carolina.
Weiner, 46, is requesting a leave of absence from the House “so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well,” his publicist, Risa Heller, said in an e-mailed statement on June 11. Weiner is seeking “professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” Heller said.
Weiner, who is married to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents,” Heller said in the statement.
Pelosi called for a House ethics investigation the day Weiner apologized for sending the photos and messages. Pelosi issued her call for Weiner’s resignation after she learned the lawmaker would seek the leave of absence, according to a Pelosi aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pelosi issued a statement saying Weiner “has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help.” She urged him “to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.”
Weiner admitted at his news conference that he engaged in “inappropriate conversations” with six women over the last three years, including by e-mail, on Facebook and Twitter, and on the telephone with one of the women. He also said he wouldn’t resign his House seat, which he first won in 1998.
The New York Times reported June 11 that Weiner acknowledged, through Heller, exchanging online messages with a 17-year-old Delaware girl. Weiner maintains that “his communications with this person were neither explicit nor indecent,” Heller said.
Others who have called for Weiner’s resignation include Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, head of the Democratic National Committee; Representative Steve Israel of New York, who leads the House Democratic campaign effort; and Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
“The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction.”
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Wasserman Schultz said: “I think Anthony Weiner needs to resign so he can focus on his family, focus on his own well-being.”
Van Hollen, former head of the Democratic campaign effort and an assistant to Pelosi when she was House speaker, also called for Weiner’s resignation because his “repeated violation of the public trust is unacceptable.”
The lawmaker’s “inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work,” Israel said in a statement.
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