How Does a Congressman Get a Leave of Absence, Anyway?

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On Saturday, N.Y. Rep. Anthony Weiner announced he would request a leave of absence from Congress to seek evaluation and treatment in the wake of a two-week long scandal over online sexual messages he sent women not his wife. The blog Point of Order, which specializes in congressional legal Issues, explains how such a leave would work:

This request implicates two legal provisions.

House Rule III(1) provides that "[e]very Member shall be present within the Hall of the House during its sittings, unless excused or necessarily prevented . . . ."

Deschler's Precedents explains the procedure: "Although requests for leaves may be presented orally from the floor, they are properly presented by filing with the Clerk the printed form which is made available at the desk of the Sergeant at Arms. The requests are normally granted by unanimous consent, although they may be refused. Requests for leaves of absence may be challenged as not being on official business, although in current practice Members do not challenge the good faith of others in asking leave."

Normally, therefore, Weiner's request for a leave of action would be granted without question; whether or not the circumstances of his request will cause another Member to object remains to be seen.

A more thorny issue, however, may arise under Title II, section 39, which provides: "The Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives (upon certification by the Clerk of the House of Representatives) shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payments authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the House, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family."

The House has not exactly been scrupulous in observing this legal provision, preferring instead to ignore it on the grounds that, well, "its general application is not practical under modern conditions."

Read the full story at Point of Order.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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