A top Republican called on Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner to resign Tuesday, saying Congress cannot afford to be distracted by the sexually charged photos and tweets he sent to women.
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia became the first top U.S. lawmaker to say that Weiner, an outspoken liberal who easily won a seventh two-year term in the House of Representatives last year, "should resign".
"We've got a lot of serious challenges going on in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do. The last thing we need is to be immersed in discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities," Cantor said.
Democrats sounded even angrier with Weiner, complaining he had effectively given Republicans a break by shifting public attention to his tweets and away from their unpopular plan to cut the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.
Weiner, married to a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Monday acknowledged that he had sent lewd pictures of himself and had inappropriate online relationships with several women. But he said he had broken no law and would not resign.
Political analysts and congressional aides said Democrats believe that Weiner undercut them politically and it is unclear if he can survive.
"Democrats are furious," one Democratic aide said.
Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political report said Democrats had good reason to be upset. "They had a great week before the story broke and were focused on Medicare and really had Republicans' backs against the wall."
"Suddenly, the Weiner story pushes all that to the side, robbing them of momentum that they might never get back. It would be hard to blame the Democratic leadership for being furious with him." Duffy said.
Just two weeks ago, Democrats scored an upset victory in a special congressional election in a traditionally Republican district in New York state, riding voter ire over a proposal by Republicans to privatize Medicare.
The contest lifted Democratic hopes that they can rebound in the 2012 election, perhaps even winning back the House of Representatives from Republicans.
Yet a nearly daily pounding of Republicans over Medicare came to a halt amid questions about Weiner's personal life.
The scandal began when Weiner denied tweeting a photo of a man in boxer briefs to a 21-year-old female student in Washington state, insisting his account had been hacked.
But on Monday, a weeping Weiner admitted having had inappropriate online exchanges with at least six women.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, asked about Weiner on Tuesday, said, "I wish there was some way I could defend him, but I can't."
Reid would not say if he thought Weiner should resign. But when asked what he would say if Weiner sought his advice, Reid said, "Call somebody else."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked the House ethics committee to investigate whether Weiner violated any of the chamber's rules.
The length of House ethics probes varies greatly depending on the case and have taken from two months to two years.
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