House Dems could strip Weiner of Energy and Commerce committee seat

June 15, 2011

House Democratic leaders on Thursday afternoon are likely to discuss the next steps in their response to the scandal surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner, including potentially relieving the New York Democrat of his spot on a key committee in an effort to pressure him to resign.

The noon huddle comes more than a week after Weiner admitted that he had repeatedly lied to cover up his inappropriate online communications with several women. Several top Democratic and Republican leaders have called on Weiner to resign, and President Obama said that if he were in Weiner’s position, he would step down.

But Weiner has insisted that he will not resign, and on Monday the House approved a two-week leave of absence while he seeks professional treatment. Weiner’s wife, senior State Department aide Huma Abedin, returned to Washington early Wednesday from a trip to the Middle East and North Africa with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Senior Democrats have privately worried that the three-week-long scandal has taken the focus off the party’s message, which had been trained on criticism of House Republicans’ plans to overhaul Medicare.

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) and other Democratic leaders have called on Weiner to resign, other top Democrats have refrained from doing so. Weiner retains a bloc of about 10 close friends in the House who have condemned his behavior even as they have objected to calls that he step aside.

If Democratic leaders choose to act more forcefully to pressure Weiner to give up his seat, one available option is relieve Weiner of his spot 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.

Such a move would require the approval of the full House. In 2009, House Republicans waged an effort 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 removing Rangel was defeated by Democrats, although several months later, Rangel stepped down on his own accord.

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