House Democrats on Tuesday sought to turn the page on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s scandal and to return to policy issues such as the economy and Medicare, even as they held out hope the embattled New York lawmaker would soon resign.
Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said that while questions continue to swirl around the Weiner controversy, the California Democrat and her colleagues are getting back onto a message that they had begun to feel was working against Republicans.
“Republicans can’t hide from their record: 162 days with no jobs bill and voting to end Medicare while giving tax breaks to Big Oil. Democrats will fight to preserve Medicare, create jobs and strengthen the middle class while responsibly reducing the deficit,” Elshami said.”That’s the choice Democrats are presenting to the American people every day.”
In fact, the normally fractured Democratic Caucus showed remarkable message discipline Tuesday.
“There hasn’t been one word about ‘Weinergate,'” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), insisting that lawmakers only discussed gas prices, the economy and the manipulation of oil markets.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) said the scandal is “taking away from all of the issues that we’re fighting for.”
The effort to move on couldn’t come at a better time for Democrats. Even though lawmakers said they weren’t inundated with questions from constituents during last week’s recess, a new national poll shows voters are taking notice.
In a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday, 60 percent of registered voters believe Weiner should step down, with 70 percent of respondents saying they have a negative view of the New Yorker. According to the poll, Weiner has a paltry 8 percent favorability in the nation.
And while back home in his district Weiner remains popular, Democrats run the risk of his negative national profile becoming associated with the party as a whole.
The problem for Democrats has remained constant: how to force a lawmaker out of office whose trespasses have not risen to the level of illegality.
“The Caucus doesn’t have unilateral power,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), who thinks Weiner should resign. “I think we [need to] send a strong message to him that he should resign. … The more of us who say it, the more telling it will be.”
There have been some signs that Weiner’s resolve might be crumbling.
“Hopefully,” McCarthy reported. “We’re hearing he might resign in a couple of days.”
Privately, however, Democrats acknowledge peer pressure won’t be enough. Weiner has never had particularly strong relationships with his colleagues. And given the fact that calls for his resignation by Pelosi, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and President Barack Obama have not swayed him, it is unclear what even a plurality of House Democrats could do.
Perhaps the only man in Washington with the ability to convince Weiner to step aside is Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer. Weiner worked for the New York Senator when he was in the House and took his seat when he went to the Senate. So far, Schumer has refused to call for a resignation. Schumer on Tuesday again declined to do so, saying only that “those of us who have been friends of Anthony Weiner” find his behavior “distressing, saddening and heartbreaking.”
“That’s all I’m going to say.”