The saga of Rep. Anthony Weiner took several turns Wednesday as a handful of Capitol Hill Democrats called for the lawmaker to resign and news broke that Weiner’s wife was pregnant.
Late Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Weiner’s wife, senior State Department aide Huma Abedin, is in the early stages of pregnancy with the couple’s first child. A person close to the Clinton family confirmed the news to the The Washington Post on Wednesday. Abedin left Wednesday for a trip to northern Africa with her boss and mentor, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When asked about the matter late Wednesday afternoon, State Department official Philippe Reines e-mailed his response from the Clinton trip in Abu Dhabi: “no comment.”
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-Pa.) issued a statement Wednesday calling on Weiner (D-N.Y.) to step down after his admission of engaging in virtual relationships with at least six women. Schwartz said that “having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a Member of Congress,” adding that in “light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign.”
Such a strong statement by Schwartz, who handles recruitment as well as member services for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was widely regarded as a sign that the party leadership had decided it’s time for Weiner to leave the House. But the news of Abedin’s pregnancy may tamp down such calls out of respect for the couple’s privacy at such a delicate time.
Schwartz joined Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Rep. Michael H. Michaud (Maine) and Rep. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), as well as former Democratic National Committee chairman Timothy M. Kaine, who is running for U.S. Senate in Virginia, in calling on Weiner to step aside.
Weiner, according those close to him, remains insistent that he has broken no laws and has no plans to leave the House and said in his Monday news conference that the marriage will remain intact.
Weiner began Wednesday making calls to his Democratic colleagues, according to the chief of staff for one lawmaker. The embattled New Yorker apologized to his colleague and also made clear that he continues to believe he can weather the storm and remain in Congress, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be able to discuss his boss’s confidential call with Weiner.
Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for a House ethics committee probe, Democratic leaders have largely stayed silent about Weiner’s political fate because he revealed in a news conference Monday that he had lied about sending a lewd image via Twitter to a Seattle college student.
But the steady stream of new news about Weiner and his online liaisons has made the situation difficult for a party trying to reclaim House control in 2012. Weiner is also a rapidly emerging target for Empire State redistricters who must shrink the New York delegation by two members before then.
The problem for Democrats is that Weiner has shown little inclination to step aside and, barring a full House vote to expel him, probably could hang on to his seat at least until the next year’s election.
Such a prolonged ordeal is a nightmare for Democratic strategists, who would like the Weiner story to disappear from headlines s as soon as possible.