House leaders breathe sigh of relief with Anthony Weiner's departure

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) announces his resignation June 16, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The resignation comes 10 days after the congressman admitted to sending lewd photos of himself on Twitter to multiple women. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It's been a long three weeks for congressional Democrats while they watched Rep. Anthony Weiner's cyber-sex scandal distract from their message on Medicare and jobs.

Leaders started by saying little when the New York Democrat made the case that he was hacked, but could not be sure if a racy photograph of a man in his underwear was him or not.

There were no calls for Weiner to step down last Monday after he admitted to sending the photo publicly to a Washington State college student over Twitter though Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi did call for an Ethics Committee investigation.

And last Wednesday Rep. Allyson Schwarz, D-Pa., and a handful of other lawmakers called for Weiner's resignation, but most members refrained from getting involved in the scandal after it was revealed that Rep. Weiner's wife Huma is pregnant.

Weiner's reprieve ended, however, over the weekend when Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, followed by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Democratic Congressional Committee Chair Steve Israel, D-N.Y., put out statements saying that it was time for Weiner to go.

Today, five days later, seven-term Congressman Anthony Weiner finally agreed that his predicament had become a distraction and that he would resign from the House of Representatives. (watch his statement at left)

Weiner had a last message for his colleagues in Congress as he stood before a crowd of reporters announcing his resignation.

"I want to thank my colleagues in the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike. They come from different places around the country, but fundamentally, we all agree. They're all patriots and I will miss them all," he said.

Not all of his colleagues shared the sentiment.

Pelosi put out a statement shortly after Rep. Weiner's announcement saying "Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning."

And Weiner's colleague from New York, Rep. Nita Lowey, said in a statement that "there is life after Congress for Anthony Weiner and I hope he devotes himself to repairing the damage he caused to his personal life."

But other lawmakers expressed sadness that Rep. Weiner handled things in such a way that he was forced to go.

"It's difficult to watch the self destruction of a friend, and to witness the breaking of hearts over what can only be categorized as reprehensible behavior and bad judgment," said Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., who refrained from calling for Weiner's resignation.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., spoke to reporters after learning that Rep. Weiner would resign.

"If he came out straight forward in the very beginning, as reprehensible as his actions and behavior admittedly were, I think that he could have survived this" he said.

Pascrell even questioned the furor that Weiner's actions caused among his colleagues since the issue is a moral one, not legal.

Anthony Weiner announces resignation from Congress
Weiner's wife absent at resignation announcement

He said "what he did is not acceptable under any circumstances, but the point is so far he did not break any law that I know of."

But Rep. Weiner's New York colleague, and regular sparring opponent on the House Floor, Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Weiner made the right choice.

"The fact that he denied them so firmly and so strongly and so much is coming out it would have been impossible for him to serve," said King. "It's one of those things, you reach a tipping point and that had been reached here."

King said that even if Rep. Weiner had come clean immediately, the new revelations of Weiner's online relationships and images resulting from the exchanges would have made it difficult for Weiner to continue serving.

Weiner's longtime Democratic ally, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, said it was a "sad day" in his statement.

"On this sad day, we should not forget that Anthony Weiner was an effective and passionate advocate for the people he represented in Brooklyn and Queens," he said. "He has served his community, city, and country well for over two decades. I wish him, Huma, and his family only the best."

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    Jill Jackson is a CBS News senior political producer.