- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amid reports of an expanding investigation into his online habits and the disclosure of more lewd photos, top Democrats this weekend insisted that Rep. Anthony D. Weiner resign - but the New York congressman says he will instead take a leave of absence and seek treatment.

“Anthony Weiner needs to resign so he can focus on his family,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But she stopped short of saying she would support an effort to force out the congressman.

“At the end of the day, a member of Congress makes their own decision and thats certainly going to be up to Anthony Weiner, but we have made it clear that he needs to resign,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.

“This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction,” she said Saturday. “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.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also called for Mr. Weiner to step down and called for a House ethics committee investigation into his behavior.

Over the weekend, more photos of the congressman in various stages of undress, taken in what is apparently the congressional gym, appeared on the website TMZ, and police are now reportedly looking into Mr. Weiner’s contacts with a 17-year-old girl in Delaware.

Mr. Weiner and his staff have insisted there was nothing inappropriate in those communications.

The 46-year-old Mr. Weiner, who has been married less than a year, has admitted to sending lewd photos and exchanging sexually charged messages on the Internet with about six women, and acknowledged that he initially lied in public to cover his tracks. He went so far as to say his online account had been hacked - something he now says was untrue.

The House has been on a weeklong vacation and Mr. Weiner, at home in New York, told reporters earlier he had no intention of resigning.

In a statement issued over the weekend, he said he will seek “professional help” and will ask for a leave of absence.

“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” his spokeswoman, Risa Heller, told the New York Times on Saturday. “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.”

But his colleagues’ pressure may make it difficult for him to stay.

The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Maryland’s Steny H. Hoyer, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said forcing Mr. Weiner out would take time, and, “I don’t know that we have that kind of time.

“This is bizarre, unacceptable behavior,” Mr. Hoyer said. “I don’t see how he can proceed and effectively represent his constituency.”

On the same program, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the scandal hurts both parties and agreed with Mr. Hoyer that Mr. Weiner should step down in part because Congress can’t afford to put other issues on hold while going through the drawn-out process of forcing Mr. Weiner out.

“We’ve got important work to do and this is just a ridiculous distraction,” Mr. Ryan said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, appearing on “Meet the Press” with Ms. Wasserman Schultz, said Democratic Party leaders were waffling on whether Mr. Weiner should resign.

“This is a question of leadership. … It seemed to me that for the first 10 days in this circus that the only job that Nancy Pelosi was interested in saving was Anthony Weiners,” Mr. Priebus said.

A small crowd of supporters and foes yelled at each other outside the congressman’s New York City district offices on Sunday.

“He’s not fit to be our congressman,” said Jim Scott, 61, one of about two dozen constituents who rallied in front of Mr. Weiner’s office in the Kew Gardens section of Queens. “People are sick of him, especially his attitude.”

Supporter James Sideris, holding up a sign saying, “Weiner Should Not Quit!” quickly got into a shouting match with those calling for his resignation. College student Olivia Lurrie, 18, said Mr. Weiner was a good leader who made a mistake.

This article includes staff and wire reports

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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