clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


House Democratic Whip Tony Coelho plans to announce his resignation from Congress on Saturday, Democratic sources said Friday, throwing the party's House leadership into even more turmoil with the expected resignation next week of Speaker Jim Wright.

Wright, his career in shambles as a result of ethics charges, disappeared for a long holiday weekend - after first handing out roses from his garden to television reporters camped outside his door.Hours later, sources who spoke only on condition of anonymity said Coelho, the Californian who was third-ranking Democrat in the party's House leadership, also plans to quit because some of his business dealings are under scrutiny.

Popular Majority Leader Thomas Foley of Washington is likely to be elevated to speaker without a hint of discord, but Coelho had expected to be a contender for Foley's current job in what was expected to be a nasty battle.

But Coelho told the New York Times he plans to resign his leadership position as soon as a successor is picked and he will quit the House on June 15, his 47th birthday.

"I don't intend to put this institution through more turmoil. And more importantly, I don't intend to put my family through more turmoil," the Times quoted him as saying.

"If I can't be leader and if I can't be whip, it's time to try a new and different challenge," Coelho told the Times.

Coelho "has been told by his attorneys that he has no legal difficulties. But he just thinks enough is enough," the source said. "He does not want to put his party through it."

Coelho faced questions about a California bank executive's purchase of a high-yield junk bond for Coelho in 1986, when Coelho found himself unable to finance the transaction.

The bond was sold to Coelho by the executive a month later at the initial offering price, saving Coelho about $4,000 compared to the bond's market price at the time. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the Justice Department was opening a criminal investigation of whether Coelho received favored treatment from Drexel Burnham. Coelho said the story was wrong.

Coelho was expected to face other contenders for the majority leader's spot, including Ed Jenkins of Georgia.

Likely candidates for the whip position, the post now held by Coelho, include Democratic Caucus Chairman William Gray of Pennsylvania, Chief Deputy Whip David Bonior of Michigan and perhaps Richard Gephardt of Missouri _ though Gephardt let it be known he won't try for the No. 2 majority leader's position against Coelho, who helped in his unsuccessful presidential campaign.