As expected, DesJarlais's duties on the House floor were both ceremonial and brief, as the pro forma session was mostly made up of a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. As soon as the latter was done, Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) asked to be recognized to argue in favor of reconvening the House to work on issues such as jobs and taxes.

ADVERTISEMENT

When McGovern started to ask to speak by saying "Mr. Speaker," DesJarlais interrupted and gaveled the House closed, and quickly walked out of the chamber.

DesJarlais came under fire earlier this week after the Huffington Post obtained a phone call transcript that showed the congressman in 2000 had pressured his then-mistress, who was also his patient, to have an abortion. DesJarlais did not dispute the contents of the transcript, according to the Huffington Post.

DesJarlais's campaign has not attributed the decision to skip debates with his Democratic opponent to the scandal, and the decision appeared to be made before the controversy broke this week. According to the Daily News Journal, he could not attend two debates in late September and early October because of various campaign activities, and would not make the Oct. 11 debate because of the pro forma duty.

"As a result, we will not be attending these [debate] events," DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis told the paper.