* House Republican leader says congressman should resign
* ‘Democrats are furious,’ aide says
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, June 7 (Reuters) - A top Republican called on Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner to resign on 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 step down.
“I think he should resign,” Cantor told reporters during a trip to Virginia.
“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.
Weiner, married to a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on Monday acknowledged that he had sent lewd pictures of himself and had inappropriate online relationships with several women. But insisted he will not resign, saying he broke no law.
Political analysts and congressional aides said, however, that Democrats believe that Weiner undercut them politically and it is unclear if he can survive.
“Democrats are furious,” one Democratic aide said.
The Democrats said his sexual indiscretions took the spotlight off an unpopular Republican plan to cut the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.
“Just as we get a boost from the Republican’s Medicare plan, Weiner effectively changed the topic” to his flirtatious tweets and photos of himself, another aide 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 the Medicare, particularly on cable television, came to a halt last week in wake of 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 tell Weiner if the congressman sought his advice, Reid said, “Call somebody else.”
At the request of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the House ethics committee will investigate whether Weiner violated at 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. (Additional reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Doina Chiacu)