Washington Rep. Gary Condit faced new criticism from colleagues Wednesday as he returned to Congress for the first time since talking publicly about his relationship with missing intern Chandra Levy.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Tex., joined the growing chorus of lawmakers who have questioned whether Condit, D-Calif., should remain on the House Intelligence Committee.
Armey said the decision should rest with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. "Prudence might suggest to Mr. Gephardt that he think about asking Gary about stepping down," Armey told reporters.
Gephardt said he would talk to House Democrats before deciding whether to take any action against Condit, including perhaps stripping him of his seat on the panel. Condit also could face an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which has so far deferred a decision because of the ongoing police investigation of Levy's disappearance.
"This is not something where I go off and make decisions," Gephardt said. "I have to talk with my colleagues, talk with the caucus. We have an ethics process in this House that has to be respected. We're going to do these things in the right way."
Gephardt aides said it is unclear whether Condit could be removed from a committee against his will. Gephardt said he had no plans to talk to Condit.
Condit skipped a meeting of the Blue Dog conservative Democrats, but was among the first members to appear on the House floor for the first of two votes Wednesday evening. California Democrats Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr and Nancy Pelosi hugged their colleague, among the more than dozen lawmakers who greeted Condit.
Some lawmakers have suggested that Condit's ability to handle the sensitive matters that come before the Intelligence panel may have been compromised by months of intense media coverage of Levy's disappearance and Condit's relationship with the 24-year-old from Modesto, Calif.
Several Republicans have called for Condit's resignation, something his aides and two adult children said he would not consider.