Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represents much of Eastern North Carolina, will miss the rest of the congressional term with an illness.
Jones, who turns 76 in February, has not cast a roll call vote since Sept. 26, missing the last 27 roll call votes in the House including some in late September and since the House re-convened in November.
The House voted to approve the 2018 farm bill on Dec. 12, though many of the votes Jones has missed have been ceremonial, such as renaming a wildlife refuge and adding to the National Register of Historic Places.
Jones was granted a leave of absence by the House for the rest of the year on Dec. 11. Congress faces a potential government shutdown over funding for a border wall, and Republican lose control of House next year.
Jones, from Farmville, plans to return to Washington on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress, according to his office. The office declined to offer any additional specifics on Jones’ illness.
Jones missed 7.7 percent of House votes in 2017, ranking 48th in missed votes among the 435 members, according to a website that tracks federal legislation.
Jones ran unopposed in November after winning a bruising three-way Republican primary in May. Republican challenger Scott Dacey made an issue out of Jones’ absences during the primary.
He announced during the primary that, if elected, it would be his final term in office.
“He just thinks it’s time to go home and spend some time with the wife and the children and the dog,” said Doug Raymond, a consultant with the Jones campaign, told The News & Observer in April. “I think he desperately wants to have a final term. There are things he’s very passionate about that he wants to see to fruition.”
Jones’ father — Walter B. Jones, Sr. — held an Eastern North Carolina seat in the U.S. House from 1966 to 1992. Jones Sr. died while still in office.
Jones’ 3rd Congressional District includes Kinston, Greenville and New Bern, and the northern half of the North Carolina coast.