WASHINGTON – With a defiant Rep. Anthony Weiner resisting calls from colleagues to quit and President Barack Obama saying he'd resign if he were in Weiner's shoes, House Democrats are wrestling with how to put the embarrassing online sex scandal behind them.
Democrats will meet behind closed doors Tuesday for the first time since the New York congressman admitted to sexually charged online relationships with several women and lying to hide his misdeeds. Frustration among Democrats is increasing as the scandal moves into its third week.
Democrats could try to oust the seven-term congressman from the House Democratic caucus or try to strip him of his committee assignment on the Energy and Commerce panel in hopes of persuading him to quit Congress.
Obama's blunt words could help Democrats trying to oust Weiner.
"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 in an interview to air Tuesday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Monday, "I hope that the president having spoken and some leaders in Congress speaking out that Congressman Weiner will hear this and know that it's in his best interest for him to leave Congress."
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 Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Congress returned to work Monday and the House quickly approved without objection a two-week leave of absence for Weiner. The congressman is said to be in treatment for an undisclosed disorder at an undisclosed location, but his spokeswoman has declined to provide information on his whereabouts.
Also on Monday the House Ethics Committee began a preliminary inquiry that could bloom into a full investigation if Weiner continues to ignore calls to resign.
Weiner's vow to seek treatment and to work to repair his tattered reputation did little to ease the furor.
Republicans suggested that Pelosi was not tough enough on Weiner. Michael Steel, a press aide to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an e-mail that Weiner's intention to seek a leave of absence "puts the focus" on Pelosi.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who has called for Weiner to resign, said if Weiner does not leave, Democrats should consider taking away his committee assignment.
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