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User's Manual to the Weiner Story for Monday

The Weiner story is sure to move to another level today as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after a week-long recess.

It's important to note that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., did not put out a statement over the weekend asking Weiner to resign. Moreover, Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., believes the caucus should consider Weiner's future.

The House Democratic Caucus meets Tuesday morning at 9a.m.That said, the leadership meets Monday afternoon around 5 or 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol.

Some options? The caucus could kick Weiner out if he doesn't resign. Or it could strip him of his committee assignments.

And remember, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., referred Weiner to the Ethics Committee last week. But that process usually takes months.

If Weiner doesn't resign, he's expected to ask the House for a leave. This is typically a perfunctory process. Lawmakers ask for leaves all the time. In fact, the House has granted 79 leaves of absence this year alone, mostly for benign reasons.

For instance on May 23, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., begged off for the entire week due to a death in his family.

On the same day, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., requested leave for just the day due to tornado damage in his district.

Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., asked for a day of leave for unspecified reasons. And Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., asked for a leave of absence due to travel delays.

The House used to fine members for missing time. Now, it's standard for lawmakers to ask for a leave without consequence.

Leaves can range from a day to more extended periods. In recent years, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-RI., requested a lengthy leave after he experienced a substance abuse relapse. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., took off for several weeks as he underwent treatment for alcoholism.

Lawmakers typically make the request through the leadership of their respective party. At the end of the legislative day, a lawmaker who is present rattles through a series of "unanimous consent" requests, including those seeking a leave of absence.

"Unanimous consent" means the entire House must agree to it. In fact, after a unanimous consent request is made, the member presiding over the House usually replies "without objection, so ordered." In other words, if just one lawmaker objects, the request is denied.

It's been years since the House has turned down a request for a leave of absence. But it is a parliamentary possibility. If that happens, it could spark a debate and even a vote on whether or not to grant the leave request.

This poses an interesting question. Would a Republican member (remember, it just takes one) object, thus preventing Weiner from taking his leave? Republicans have thoroughly enjoyed a dose of schadenfreude as they watch Democrats contort over Weiner. And keeping Weiner in the House might help them score some additional political mileage. Secondly, there are plenty of Democrats who want Weiner out, too. Would a Democrat object to a leave request?

Regardless, lawmakers do have consciences. And whomever would object to a fellow member asking for a leave of absence to receive treatment would have a lot of explaining to do and draw substantial attention.

In any event, Weiner doesn't need to be present to ask for leave. The Congressman or his office may simply inform Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of his request. If Weiner asks for leave starting today, the House probably won't consider the matter until 7 or 7:30 p.m. tonight, after a lengthy sequence of votes.

In 1979, one lawmaker asked the House to dock his pay for the three days when he was away. In 1971, another member requested a "leave of absence without pay" as he sought election to another office.

No one from Weiner's team could answer whether the Congressman would ask the House to withhold his pay during his proposed leave of absence.