Drumbeat grows for Weiner to step down

The Democratic drumbeat for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation is getting louder and louder, with a number of rank-and-file members joining calls for the New York Democrat to go.

In separate statements Wednesday, Democratic Reps. Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Mike Michaud (Maine), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) all slammed Weiner's behavior as unbefitting of a U.S. congressman.

“Enough is enough,” Donnelly, who's running against Sen. Dick Lugar (R), told The Associated Press. “It's time for Congressman Weiner to resign.’”

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Donnelly and the other Democrats joined Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), the first House Democrat to call for Weiner's resignation.

That Schwartz would lead the charge was no accident. A close ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), she is also in charge of recruiting Democratic candidates for the 2012 elections.

Pelosi was livid when Weiner called her just 15 minutes before his tearful public confession on Monday to say he'd lied to his colleagues but would not be stepping down, a senior Democratic aide said this week.

Pelosi has called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Weiner broke any chamber rules with his virtual trysts, but she has not called on Weiner to quit.

That job fell to Schwartz, whose statement on Wednesday was all of two sentences long.

“Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress,” Schwartz said. “In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign.”

Democratic leaders received a bit of political cover from Tim Kaine, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, who urged Weiner to step down on Tuesday night.

“Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable," said Kaine, who's vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

For some Democrats, the decision to go after Weiner came abruptly. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), for instance, said Wednesday afternoon that Weiner's fate is "a decision he [Weiner] has to make, just like Sen. [David] Vitter had to make that decision" — a reference to the Louisiana Republican whose phone number appeared on the client list of a high-profile prostitution ring in 2007.

Just hours later, Leahy became the second Senate Democrat calling on Weiner to step aside, according to local reports. Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) is the other.

For Weiner, the picture grew bleaker on Wednesday when an X-rated picture allegedly of the congressman was leaked to the Internet. Andrew Breitbart, the conservative activist blogger, said Weiner sent the picture to one of his virtual paramours. Breitbart also apologized for the leak, which he said was unintentional.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) — a high-profile Democrat who often serves as a mouthpiece for the party — said the latest photo should be the final straw surrounding Weiner's fate.

“This picture puts it over the limit,” Rendell told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Wednesday. “He has no choice but to resign.”

Still, other observers argue that the outcry toward Weiner is overblown considering the number of ethical and legal breaches committed by other lawmakers in recent years. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, noted that there's no evidence Weiner broke the law or congressional rules. That sets him above Vitter, Sloan told ABC, who “actually committed a crime of soliciting a prostitute.”

“This is a massive overreaction and I don't understand it,” she said.

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