Rep. Anthony Weiner is questioned by the media near his...

Rep. Anthony Weiner is questioned by the media near his home in the Queens borough of New York. (June 11, 2011) Credit: AP Photo

WASHINGTON -- Under new pressure by top Democrats to resign, Rep. Anthony Weiner Saturday asked for a leave to seek treatment, putting off a decision on whether to quit until his wife returns from Africa this week, a senior Democrat in Congress said.

Weiner, 46, a Forest Hills Democrat embroiled in a sexting scandal for the past two weeks, left Saturday morning for an undisclosed location "to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person," his spokeswoman Risa Heller said.

"In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives," she said, for evaluation and mapping out a treatment.

Weiner had been given a deadline of Friday night to "do the right thing [quit]" in private conversations he had with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders, said the senior Democrat, who asked not to be identified.

But the Democrat said, "He has been emphatic that he wants his wife back in the country before he makes the decision. He made a commitment to her he wouldn't make a decision while she was in Africa."

His wife, Huma Abedin, is on a diplomatic trip with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as her deputy chief of staff and will return Wednesday. Abedin is pregnant, reports say.

"That's the next benchmark in this drama, on Wednesday," the Democrat said.

In seeking leave, Weiner sidestepped the calls for resignation that Democratic allies and leaders in the House issued in orchestrated fashion yesterday afternoon, attempting to end what one of them called an "insurmountable distraction."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, issued the first statement, followed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the House Democratic campaign chairman, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills).

"This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Rep. Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House," Wasserman Schultz said. "And for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important -- his and his family's well-being."

Other House Democrats, including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, also called for Weiner to resign. Weiner's "actions brought dishonor to an institution charged with doing the people's business," the Mineola Democrat said.

Weiner had warning that Pelosi and others might issue statements urging him to resign, the official said. On Friday, Pelosi sought to nudge him by saying it was his decision to make.

But since his tearful news conference Monday, in which he admitted sending explicit and raunchy photos of himself and lewd messages, Weiner has insisted he will not resign. He also has expressed doubt about getting professional treatment for his sexting.

When Friday passed and Weiner did nothing, the leadership swung into action.

"I called and informed him that I was going to call for his resignation," said Israel, frustrated by the scandal's effect on his bid to elect Democrats to the House as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"He absorbed that but obviously he had many more pressing personal issues to deal with," Israel said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he is "heartbroken" over the developments. "For those of us who are longtime friends of Anthony Weiner, his wrongful behavior is distressing and saddening," Schumer said. "It's clear he needs professional help and I am glad he is seeking it."

The senior Democrat in Congress said the orchestrated push to tell Weiner to resign was not related to the latest revelation that he had Internet contact with a 17-year-old Delaware girl.

On Friday evening Fox News broke the story about Weiner's exchanges with the girl; police are investigating.

Heller and the girl's family said the messages contained nothing indecent or explicit.

Latest videos