Pressure mounts on Jesse Jackson Jr. to reveal cause of absence
By Kate Bolduan and Deirdre Walsh
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A high-ranking House Democrat is calling on Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to reveal the reasons behind his mysterious leave of absence from Congress.
“I think Congressman Jackson and his office and his family would be well-advised to advise his constituents of his condition,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said in response to a question from CNN Wednesday.
“He’s obviously facing a health problem,” Hoyer added. “People get sick. And when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that but I think the family would be well-advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.”
It was a very direct message from a House Democratic leader who has been reluctant, up until now, to publicly press Jackson, D-Illinois, for more detail.
The pressure began mounting Tuesday after comments to reporters in Chicago by fellow Illinois Democrat Rep. Dick Durbin.
“As a public official… there reaches a point when you have a responsibility to tell people what you’re facing and how things are going. Senator Kirk has done that, and I think Congressman Jackson will face that too,” Durbin said.
Earlier this year, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, suffered a stroke. He is still recovering and his office continues to give updates on his progress.
Jackson hasn’t been on Capitol Hill for votes or hearings since late May, and in early June his office announced he was taking a leave of absence because he was suffering from a “medical condition.”
But more questions arose late last week, when Jackson communications director Frank Watkins put out another cryptic update.
“Congressman Jackson’s medical condition is more serious than we thought and initially believed,” he said.
“We have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time.”
Initially, Jackson’s office said the nine-term congressman was suffering from “exhaustion,” but has since declined to provide any further information regarding his health.
Another of Jackson’s Illinois colleagues, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, told CNN Wednesday she didn’t have any details on Jackson’s situation or medical condition and said she didn’t want to “second guess” how the congressman’s family and his office has handled the situation over the last few weeks.
But she echoed Hoyer’s call for additional information.
“Clearly at some point he’s going to have to give some info about when he’s coming back,” Schakowsky said.
Several senior House Democratic aides contacted by CNN insist Jackson isn’t telling Hill colleagues anything. Privately, they were critical about the information blackout from Jackson’s office, noting it only raises more questions about his absence.
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