House Democrats played a waiting game in Tuesday in the online sex case of Rep. Anthony Weiner, counting on mounting pressure from colleagues, a suggestion from the president and his wife's return from an official trip to persuade Weiner to quit.
The strategy surfaced at a meeting of all House Democrats, when members cast aside discussion of Weiner's sexually charged online postings and decided instead to let him think about calls from high-powered party members to leave.
The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, made the suggestion again after the meeting, saying she wanted to make sure nobody missed her earlier resignation call while members were on a week-long 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."
A fellow member of Weiner's New York Democratic delegation, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, said before the party 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, State Department official Huma Abedin, is due back from an overseas trip early Wednesday 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.
But even as top Democrats tried to pressure Weiner into resigning, Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York's senior senator and the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, has not had much to say about the seven-term congressman. Schumer, Weiner's political mentor, gave Weiner his first job on Capitol Hill when Schumer was a congressman.
Schumer — who like Weiner has a reputation as a brash, media-savvy political player — has pointedly refused to offer his support. But he hasn't called for Weiner to resign either. Instead, Schumer has stayed mostly on the sidelines, his comments mostly limited to a few brief written statements emailed to reporters.
When Weiner announced on Saturday he would seek a leave of absence from Congress to seek treatment, Schumer's brief statement focused on the personal side of Weiner's plight.
"I am heartbroken," Schumer's statement said. "For those of us who are longtime friends of Anthony Weiner his wrongful behavior is distressing and saddening. It's clear he needs professional help and I am glad he is seeking it."
House Speaker John Boehner had been content to let Democrats wrestle with the embarrassing scandal, but when asked Tuesday whether Weiner should resign, responded "Yes."
Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., said after the Democratic meeting that 95 percent of it concerned energy prices. Andrews said there was no discussion of stripping Weiner of his assignment on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
President Barack Obama spoke bluntly about Weiner in an interview that aired Tuesday.
"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. 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. I can tell you that, if it was me, I would resign," the president said.
The cascade of raunchy photos and other revelations about the 46-year-old married congressman 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 Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
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