DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel on Weiner's Resignation

DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel on Weiner's Resignation

By John King, USA - June 16, 2011

KING: Joining us now from Capitol Hill New York Democratic Congressman Steve Israel, also the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Congressman, you're at the White House picnic last night and you get a phone call from Anthony Weiner. Take me inside that conversation.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well John I can't take you inside the conversation because I'm not going to publicly comment on a private conversation. I will say that Congressman Weiner and I had several conversations. He made the right decision. He reached the right decision for himself, for his wife, for the Congress and for the American people.

One of the things that Congressman Weiner talked about over the past week was that on Wednesday the Republicans introduced a bill to privatize Social Security after a month before they tried to end Medicare. And he realized that this had become a huge distraction from some serious challenges that we confront and from some important fights that we need to have. Now that he's made that decision, we can go back to addressing those challenges and quite honestly fighting those fights.

KING: And when he called, had he made his decision because you took Leader Pelosi off to the side and she joined the conversation? When he called did he say I'm definitely resigning or did he say I'm close to resigning? Did she have to nudge him any more?

ISRAEL: He had already made the decision to resign. And he spoke with me. He said that he wanted to deliver that news to Leader Pelosi and when he delivered the news to me and to Leader Pelosi he did talk about the fact that it is important now to go back to the issues and the challenges that this country faces.

KING: He initially rejected calls from Leader Pelosi from yourself and from other Democrats and a pretty good nudge from the president of the United States that was not directly a call for his resignation. What changed his mind?

ISRAEL: I can't tell you what changed his mind. I can't tell you that he was very concerned in all the conversations that I had with him with the fact that this had become a huge distraction. And repeatedly we talked about the fact that the Republicans introduced a bill to privatize Social Security and we weren't able to talk about that bill to privatize Social Security because there was so much attention given to Congressman Weiner. Now we can pay attention to the privatization of Social Security and fight to stop it.

KING: And let me ask you, you used the word "huge distraction". Certainly a huge distraction to the Democrats in trying to advance their agenda here in Washington, D.C. Your job is to try to win enough seats next year to get that speaker's gavel away from John Boehner and to give it back to Leader Pelosi, if that is the Democratic Conference's choice. When you're out recruiting candidates, when you're out talking, trying to raise money over the past couple of weeks, how many times has the Weiner sexting scandal come up as an obstacle to you doing that work?

ISRAEL: You know on the fundamentals of recruiting candidates, and the other things that we do, it wasn't really that much of a distraction but on the retail level, the fact of the matter is that Congressman Weiner himself realized that his story had become a distraction from the fact that the Republicans tried to privatize Social Security. And when Republicans introduce a bill to privatize Social Security and people aren't paying attention that becomes an untenable situation. Not politically but untenable for the country. And that is what I think helped bring him to the decision that he should resign so we can get back to those fundamentally important issues and challenges.

KING: I'm getting an example here of why you're the chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee. I could ask you the color of the sky and you get back to the Republican plan on Social Security and I completely -- I understand that's your job. Help me understand the evolution of this. Those who have talked to Congressman Weiner say that over the last 24 hours or so he sounds a little different, he sounds a little bit more in charge of himself -- my choice of words -- than perhaps he did a week or 10 days ago. Is that fair?

ISRAEL: That is fair. Look, the past several weeks have been difficult for the country, difficult for the Congress, difficult for Congressman Weiner and more importantly his family. And obviously he was going through a range of emotions over the past several weeks. When I did speak with him yesterday without going into the details the conversation, I think it's fair to say that he was more clear, more firm than I had heard him in previous conversations.

KING: Steve Israel is one of the Democrats who nudged Anthony Weiner into his resignation decision today and you can hear right here just why. Congressman, appreciate your insights tonight.

ISRAEL: Thank you.


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John King, USA

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