House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), one of the first congressional leaders to call for Rep. Anthony Weiner to step aside, on Monday reiterated that the scandal-ridden New York Democrat should resign his seat and suggested that Democratic leaders might want to consider removing Weiner from his perch on a key committee if he does not do so.
“I’ve called on him to resign,” Cantor told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. “I called on him to resign early, because I think that this kind of behavior is unacceptable in the way that his leaders now have called on him to resign. I’m hoping that they will begin to move, if he does not resign, toward things like perhaps stripping him of his committees and others. I don’t think that we have time for this; we obviously have a lot of other issues to be concerned with.”
Cantor had called on Weiner to step down less than a week after a lewd photo surfaced on the Democrat’s Twitter account and four days before Weiner acknowledged that he had lied in an effort to cover up the fact that he had sent the photo and dozens like it to women across the country.
Weiner sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees a broad range of issues, from consumer protection and the telecommunications industry to public health and the environment. A move by Democratic leaders to take away his committee assignment would be a concrete step toward upping the pressure on the embattled congressman to resign.
Such a move would require the approval of the full House. The chamber’s Republicans waged an effort in 2009 to oust Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; a vote by the full House on a resolution ousting Rangel was defeated by Democrats, although several months later, Rangel stepped down of his own accord.
In 2006, House Democrats voted to strip then-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was facing a federal bribery investigation, of his position on the Ways and Means Committee; the move was approved the next day by a vote of the full House.
Earlier Monday, the White House weighed in for the first time on the controversy surrounding Weiner, calling the scandal “a distraction” but stopping short of calling for his resignation.
“The president feels, we feel at the White House, this is a distraction. As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, dishonesty was inappropriate,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. “But the president is focused on his job, which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs and ensuring the safety and security of the American people.”