Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY) will leave Congress temporarily to tend to his personal life, a spokeswoman for the Congressman, Risa Heller told TPM on Saturday. The move falls short of a resignation, which Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a group of top Democratic officials publicly demanded earlier the same day.
“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” the statement reads. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well. Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents.”
If his goal was to head off the calls for his resignation from Democratic leadership, he did not succeed. “At the time of her statement this afternoon, Leader Pelosi was already aware of Congressman Weiner’s intention to take a leave of absence in order to seek treatment,” an aide to Pelosi told TPM in an e-mail.
Weiner’s announcement came shortly after his office confirmed that the Congressman exchanged messages online with a 17-year old female high school student in Delaware, although he and the family of the girl in question both say that nothing inappropriate occurred.
According to House rules, members can request a formal “leave of absence,” but the term has no actual legal or constitutional significance. The Congressional Record often notes leaves of absence on individual votes with explanations like illness, official business, or family matters, with their inclusion approved by unanimous consent, but a substantial leave may fall under a separate procedure. A Democratic aide told TPM that members’ requests for a leave of absence over an extended period are approved automatically, but Speaker Boehner’s office is reportedly still consulting the rules to determine whether that’s correct.
Update 6/12/11: Leaves of absence do not require approval from Speaker Boehner and are handled within Weiner’s caucus, according to a Republican aide.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.