Rep. Wexler Resigning for Think-Tank Job

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009; 11:47 AM

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) announced Wednesday that he is resigning his House seat to take a post at a think tank, surprising his colleagues by cutting short a potentially promising Congressional career after a dozen years.

In a statement released by his office, Wexler said he would leave the House in January to become president of the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation, a job that would afford him "an unparalleled opportunity to work on behalf of Middle East peace for an important and influential non-profit institute. After much discussion with my family, I have decided that I cannot pass up on this opportunity."

Currently the sixth-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel, Wexler has been active on Middle East issues for several years. (His official biography says that he was the only House member present when President Bill Clinton signed the Wye River peace agreement in 1998.) Wexler is also a prominent member of the Judiciary Committee, where he earned significant media attention during that panel's impeachment proceedings against Clinton.

A press-friendly and outspoken liberal, the 48-year-old Wexler seemed positioned for a long career climbing the committee ladder in the House. But the Florida lawmaker said Wednesday, "We are at a unique and critically tense moment in the history of the Middle East.... I am convinced that now is the time for me to engage on these issues on a full time basis."

Wexler's Boca Raton-based 19th district stands almost no chance of changing parties. President Obama -- whom Wexler supported very early in the 2008 presidential campaign -- won the seat with 65 percent of the vote in November. The real action to replace Wexler will take place in the Democratic primary, and the Miami Herald reports that the jockeying among potential candidates has already begun. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will schedule a special election to fill the seat once Wexler officially resigns.

Wexler will be the fifth House member to resign since the end of the 110th Congress. The previous four -- Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) and John McHugh (R-N.Y.) -- all left Capitol Hill to take jobs in the Obama administration.

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