Weld informed Deputy White House Chief of Staff John Podesta of his decision this morning and scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference in Washington to formally announce his intentions, a source told The Associated Press. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
In his announcement, Weld was expected to rule out seeking any other diplomatic posting. He now will return to a job in the private sector, most likely in investment banking, and consider his political future, the source said.
Helms, R-N.C., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He refused to grant his fellow Republican a hearing, saying that Weld was "a little loose with his lips."
He also said Weld, a moderate on many issues, including his backing of the medical use of marijuana, was the incorrect choice for a posting in Mexico, which has long struggled to fight drug traffickers.
Weld said Helms, a staunch conservative, disliked his political philosophy, not his drug record. He resigned as governor on July 29 to head to Capitol Hill to make his case personally.
Clinton aides were caught off guard by the news of Weld's withdrawal from the fight. Weld had been expected to make courtesy calls on Capitol Hill today.
As recently as Sunday, Weld said public opinion could force the Senate to at least vote on his stalled nomination. But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., declared the nomination "dead."
"The president, for the sake of our relationships with Mexico and all the other issues that we need to take up, needs to go ahead and find a way to move away from this nominee," Lott said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Even after President Clinton and scores of senators called on Helms to grant Weld a hearing, the senator refused. That forced an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee on Friday in which Helms asserted his right to block a nomination.
Helms did nearly all the talking and said that Weld had threatened to "begin a war within the Republican Party. Well, let him try, let him try."
Weld, whose stance in favor of abortion rights also distanced him from
the conservative wing of his party, was in the room for the meeting but
was given no opportunity to speak.