Weiner succumbed to pressure from every corner of official Washington, from Obama to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who joined the fray this week after withholding comment as Weiner's fellow Democrats, led by Pelosi, failed to exert the requisite pressure. Weiner was to be the topic of a House Democratic leadership meeting on Thursday on whether to strip him of his coveted seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. If the leadership had decided to go down that road, it would have required Steering Committee approval and the support of a majority of the Democratic caucus, a time-consuming process that would have fueled the drama for yet another week—the last thing Democrats wanted.
Weiner, 46, had hoped to finish his seventh term in Congress before running again for New York City mayor in 2013. Weiner finished second in the 2005 Democratic primary to Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and appeared intent on fueling his bid for mayor with TV appearances and the campaign cash they tend to generate, but those dreams are now dust.
Weiner faced direct calls from prominent Democratic colleagues that he resign from Congress. On Wednesday Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., who is in charge of recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Weiner to step aside.
“Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress. In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign,” said Schwartz, in a statement.
Weiner’s journey from the unknown congressman from Brooklyn to cable TV “political-celebrity” looked pretty vanilla in the annals of get-on-TV-make-a-name-for-yourself identity politics practiced by an avid minority of Democrats and Republicans. And Weiner has never been self-conscious about his name: At the State University of New York (Plattsburgh), he ran for student government with the slogan “Vote for Weiner – he’ll be frank.”
Legislatively, Weiner was always a bit of cipher. He did sponsor a bill in 2007 to create an online registry of sex offender’s e-mail addresses (we’ll skip the ritualistic use of “ironic” here), and the House passed a bill of his in 2008 to reduce illegal cigarette sales. Elected in 1998, Weiner seemed intent on serving his Brooklyn constituents principally on TV and laying the ground work for his next bid for mayor.
But Weiner’s cable exploits – on politics and in policy – brought him visibility and a degree of caucus fame. He routinely appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN to do battle with Republican colleagues or, on occasion, cable anchors. (Until his sexting scandal, Weiner’s best-known TV exploits were with Fox anchor Megyn Kelly – the “cat fights” are something of a YouTube legend.) Weiner came to the Capitol as an aide to then-Rep. Chuck Schumer and learned from the aggressive and TV-savvy Schumer that few things accumulated power and prestige faster than an elevated media profile.