By a voice vote yesterday, the House approved Rep. Anthony Weiner's request for a two-week absence for "personal matters." As long as he's off-the-clock at an undisclosed location, taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for the New York Democrat who is supposedly coming to grips with his odd obsession with sending obscene photographs of himself to women. Rep. Mike Capuano, Massachusetts Democrat, sponsored the motion offering Mr. Weiner some time off, and nobody objected.
Members of Congress routinely ask for a floor vote on an absence so that it is included in the Congressional Record, giving constituents an explanation why their representative skipped a vote. These votes on absences aren't controversial and are done by unanimous consent typically at the request of party leaders. In this case, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, didn't make the request, presumably because she has already asked Mr. Weiner to resign. Mr. Capuano's office declined to explain his interest in the matter.
Mr. Weiner's spokesman said that he was taking leave in order to "get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well" and to "focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person." The type of treatment was not specifically disclosed, but it's assumed to be so-called "sex rehab." Since Mr. Weiner did not ask for medical leave, by law, he cannot be paid.
A federal statute makes it clear that the House's Chief Administration Office (CAO) "shall deduct ... the amount of his salary for each day" that a member is absent from the House unless he "assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family." Mr. Weiner's request for absence from Mr. Capuano was "for a period of two weeks on account of personal matters." As a nonmedical matter, the CAO should be deducting his pay as of Monday, when he missed votes. At $174,000 per year, a two-week vacation would be worth about $6,700 in salary. The Washington Times asked the CAO's office repeatedly about when Mr. Weiner's pay would start being docked, but spokesman Dan Weiser would only say that he did not have an answer "at this time."
That's not good enough. The rules are clear, and taxpayers shouldn't be forced to underwrite meditation time for a disgraced politician. Without a medical excuse, Mr. Weiner has no business picking up a paycheck, and he would be hard pressed to find a doctor to write a note saying he is home sick with sexting fever.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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