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Where's Weller? Not present for historic bailout vote

by Samantha Abernethy
Sep 30, 2008

Four hundred and thirty-four members of Congress were on hand Monday to vote on whether to bail out Wall Street and stave off an economic crisis that threatens to rock the nation’s economy.

The 435th – Illinois Republican Jerry Weller – wasn’t able to fit it into his schedule.

He wasn’t available for comment Tuesday; officials in his office in Washington directed people to his district office, where callers were greeted by answering machine.

When pressed for a reason, his office released a statement that read, “The congressman missed an unscheduled session of Congress because of a family matter. He will be present at the next vote on the rescue plan.”

A spokesman declined to comment with any further detail on the situation.

But Weller, of Streator, has missed more than one vote. A database of congressional voting records compiled by the Washington Post lists Weller as not having cast a vote since Thursday; he has missed 15.2 percent of the votes during the current Congress.

One explanation might be that Weller has short-timer’s disease, having announced a year ago that he was leaving the House at the end of his term.

Kent Redfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said that by missing votes Weller has not been living up to the expectations of an elected official.

“He has been generally disengaged since he announced that he wasn’t going to run,” Redfield said.

Thirty-two congressmen are not seeking re-election; many of them have remained active with their districts and their parties without the motive of re-election.

All of them cast a vote on Monday’s bailout.

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Peoria) also is not seeking re-election, but he was present and voted for the bailout proposal. However, he has missed 16.4 percent of the votes during the current Congress.

The Illinois representative with the worst voting record is Chicago Democrat Bobby Rush, who missed 32.1 percent of votes. He was there Monday, and voted against the bailout.

Rush, however, lists a reason: He missed three months earlier this year while undergoing treatment for cancer. His treatment is ongoing.

The candidates hoping to succeed Weller both issued statements on the bailout proposal.

Republican Marty Ozinga did not have a comment on Weller missing the vote, but said, “With deep reservations, I am now in support of the package rejected Monday by Congress. (…) At the end of the day, I would rather have a flawed bill that would stop the bleeding than an economic depression that would put millions of jobs at risk.”

Democrat Debbie Halvorson’s campaign released a statement criticizing Weller, “This was one of the most important votes in my recent memory. For Congressman Weller not to vote is shameful. I would never treat my constituents that way. Yesterday, I would have voted no.”