Republican Gov. William F. Weld took the extraordinary step of resigning Monday to fight his own party for the right to become President Clinton’s ambassador to Mexico. The senator blocking Weld’s path sent word the nomination is “pretty much buried.”
“I don’t believe it would be fair to the people of Massachusetts to permit the conduct of their government to become embroiled in the vagaries of Washington politics,” Weld said at a news conference.
The resignation is effective at 5 p.m. today.
Weld’s aides said the move, which caught the White House by surprise when the decision became public on Sunday, is part of a campaign to either win himself the posting in Mexico City or highlight his longheld belief that the Republican Party must be more inclusive if it hopes to regain the White House.
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said he will not hold a confirmation hearing for the nominee because the governor supposedly is soft on drugs. Weld, 51, has supported the medical use of marijuana and needle exchanges for addicts.
Helms spokesman Marc Thiessen warned that Weld “pretty much buried his nomination” earlier this month when he held a news conference in which he criticized Helms.
“All the rest is theatrics,” Thiessen said, referring to Weld’s resignation.
Weld’s resignation raises the political stakes for himself and the White House by drawing even more attention to his embattled nomination.
Weld notified the White House of his decision, which became public on Sunday. The White House said he acted independently and did not discuss his decision in advance with administration officials.
With the confirmation fight escalating, Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser to the president, bristled at speculation that the administration is less than willing to expend political capital in a fight for Weld’s confirmation.
“We’re committed,” Emanuel said. “Someone somewhere in the White House is trying to convince the press otherwise, but there’s an effort and it’s a full-time effort.”
He added that Clinton’s top congressional affairs liaison, Susan Brophy, herself a Boston native, has been assigned to work on Weld’s nomination with the chief of staff for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.