House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and two other leaders of the Democratic Party on Saturday called on Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to resign, shattering any semblance of party support for the embattled congressman, who is requesting a "leave of absence" from the House.
“Congressman Weiner has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement Saturday.
Her call was issued nearly simultaneously with pleas for Weiner to quit from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-Fla.), the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The coordinated calls escalate the pressure on him to quit following his admission that he sent lewd messages and photos to women via Facebook and Twitter.
Within two hours of those statements, a spokeswoman for Weiner announced that the congressman was requesting a leave of absence from the House and had left earlier in the day “to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and a healthier person.”
“In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well,” the spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said. “Congressman Weiner 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.”
After Weiner's statement, Pelosi's office did not back off her call for him to quit: "At the time of her statement this afternoon, Leader Pelosi was already aware of Congressman Weiner’s intention to take a leave of absence in order to seek treatment," a Pelosi aide said.
Two Democratic officials said the Democratic leaders' coordinated effort was in the works before news broke that police in Delaware were investigating messages Weiner sent to a 17-year-old girl. Weiner said through a spokeswoman the messages were "not indecent."
Democratic leaders had hoped Weiner would resign on his own, but he refused.
A senior Democratic aide said party leaders have been talking with him throughout the week, and that the coordinated effort to push him out began when he told the Democratic leadership he had decided to seek treatment. The aide said Weiner was informed that the leaders would be issuing a public call for his resignation.
The aide said the statements were released on Saturday to get ahead of the Sunday shows and the return of lawmakers on Monday.
"It is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), the newly installed DNC chief, said in her statement. “The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner's continued service in Congress is untenable. This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House - and for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important - his and his family's well-being."
Wasserman-Schultz spoke out a day before she is to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where she was expected to face a barrage of questions about Weiner. Democrats have complained that the scandal is distracting from their policy-centered criticism of Republicans on Medicare and other issues.
“Anthony’s inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work for the American people. With a heavy heart, I call on Anthony to resign,” Israel, a New York colleague of Weiner’s, said in his statement.
A former DCCC head, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, joined the calls from his colleagues for Weiner to depart.
“Anthony Weiner’s repeated violation of the public trust is unacceptable," Van Hollen said in a statement. "He can best advance the issues he fought for by resigning immediately.”
The push from Pelosi was particularly extraordinary. A longtime aide to the former Speaker told The Hill that they could not remember her calling for a fellow Democrat to resign in the last decade.
Previous DNC chairs Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE, now a Senate candidate in Virginia, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell have also called for Weiner to resign.
The leave of absence requested by Weiner could buy him time to hold on to his seat, particularly if the story fades from the daily headlines.
A Democratic aide said that although a leave of absence is formally “requested,” it is considered a formality and would not be rejected.
“No approval. You ask for, you get,” the aide said.