June 8, 2011 -- A growing number of Democrats are joining several high-profile Republicans in calling for Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York to resign following his admission of risqué online exchanges and lying about them.
Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official, called Weiner's behavior "offensive" and said that he should resign.
"Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress," she said in an interview with Politico.
Schwartz joins a handful of other sitting Democrats, including Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and former DNC chairman Tim Kaine in calling for Weiner to step down.
Top Republicans, including RNC chairman Reince Preibus and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have also said Weiner should go.
But some observers say the message to Weiner is hypocritical and politically motivated, given both public opinion polling showing that a majority of New Yorkers think Weiner should stay and the fact that Weiner has not been accused of breaking the law or convicted of violating any House rules.
"This is a massive overreaction and I don't understand it," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Sloan pointed to the recent ethics case of another New York congressman, Charles Rangel, as an example of the double standard being pushed by some Democrats for Weiner.
The House Ethics Committee found Rangel -- the former chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation's tax laws -- guilty of improper fundraising, inappropriate possession of multiple rent-controlled apartments and failure to pay taxes on a vacation home, among other charges.
"There were very few calls on Rangel to resign and he was censured of serious misconduct involving his office – really serious things that had potential for criminal charges," Sloan said. "We don't have anything remotely like that in the Weiner case."
Sloan explained that the mounting pressure on Weiner may stem in part from the early precedent set by House Speaker John Boehner when, at the first sign of sexual misconduct, he urged Reps. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) to resign, even though their behavior didn't appear to involve any abuse of their office.
"A lot of people really hate Weiner, too," she said, referring to Weiner's colleagues in the House, some of whom are said to have been rankled by his personality and frequent media appearances.
As for Weiner's bald lies to his family, constituents and the general public in media appearances last week about the lewd photo that appeared on Twitter, Sloan said it was disconcerting and tarnished his credibility but not the worst Washington has seen.
"A politician lying is not that unusual," Sloan said. "If the new standard is that politicians are out the second they lie to us, then a lot of politicians could be gone."
The Senate Ethics Committee last month concluded that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) tried to cover up a sex scandal with the wife of his former top aide, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and violated campaign finance laws.
Ensign, who remained in office during the monthslong investigation, abruptly resigned before the findings were released. The committee later referred the case to both the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.
Republican Sen. David Vitter (La.), who admitted to ties to the so-called D.C. Madam and later apologized, "actually committed a crime of soliciting a prostitute," said Sloan. He remains in office.
"I think there will be a public backlash when people start to think about what is this guy really accused of doing, and is this the most serious thing a politician has done when most people are really concerned about politicians selling their office to special interests?" Sloan said of Weiner. "There's no kind of that allegation here."
In the end, should Weiner decide to stay, it will be the voters who decide his fate.
A Marist/NY1 poll found 51 percent of New Yorkers say Weiner should say in office, and only 30 percent think that he should resign.
Before his ethics trial and conviction, Rangel faced a New York Times poll that found 70 percent saying he should leave Congress -- 46 percent said at the end of his term, 24 percent immediately.
Several months later, however, Rangel was re-elected for a 21st term -- with 81 percent of the vote.
Note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version which incorrectly stated as fact that the Senate Ethics Committee determined Sen. Tom Coburn had lied about his involvement in the Sen. John Ensign matter. The committee did not reach such a conclusion.