The only option, aides said, was to find a way to convince Weiner he needed to resign of his own accord.
Pelosi, Israel and other members, including Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), began a behind-the-scenes effort to convince him of that, repeatedly discussing the situation on the phone with Weiner. They argued the party was suffering substantially because of the scandal, that the momentum they had gained from the Medicare fight was evaporating thanks to the explicit messages and pictures he had sent to the women. They argued that drawing out the scandal was having a terrible effect not only on him but also his family, particularly his wife, Huma Abedin.
Two aides said that while politics weighed heavily on Pelosi’s mind, she was genuinely concerned for Weiner and his family. She and others felt his behavior indicated he has serious problems and they believed he needed to get help.
Still, top Democrats “systematically increased the pressure” on Weiner into late last week.
Aides said that during conversations with Israel and others, Weiner acknowledged the enormity of the problem but held out hope that he could muscle through the scandal. As last week ended, party leaders agreed the time was approaching for a unified and public push to get Weiner to resign.
Saturday morning, Pelosi and Israel again called Weiner, and in separate conversations with him explicitly warned they were preparing statements calling for him to step down. And while Weiner said he was going to a rehabilitation center, Pelosi and Israel told him it was not enough.
At this point, it is unclear what else, if anything, Pelosi and her colleagues can do. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer called Weiner's behavior "bizarre" and "unacceptable" during an interview Sunday, but the Maryland Democrat acknowledged that a formal process to remove him from Congress would take time. "I really don't know that we have that time," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Early this week, Weiner is expected to submit a formal request for a leave of absence — an archaic rule of the House dating back to when lawmakers were paid by the day and docked pay for missing votes. Hoyer hopes Weiner would use the time to consider resigning.
"It is my understanding Mr. Weiner has indicated he wants to take a leave. I would hope he does so. I hope he reflects upon whether or not he can proceed. It seems to me extraordinarily difficult that he can proceed to represent his constituents in an effective way given the circumstances," he said. Ryan, who appeared with Hoyer on "Face the Nation," called the scandal a "ridiculous distraction" and said Weiner should step down.
A leave of absence would likely keep the scandal in the public eye for at least several more days, and there remains the prospect that more women or more details will emerge in the days ahead. On Sunday morning, TMZ.com published photographs of Weiner in various states of undress that the website said were taken in the House gym. Although not as explicit as some of the other pictures that have surfaced, they are the sort of embarrassing revelations that leadership had hoped to avoid.
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