Top Dems disagree Whether Jackson Should Reveal Cause Of Absence

By: CNN (Posted by Carissa Fox)
By: CNN (Posted by Carissa Fox)
The top Democrats in the House of Representatives are split on whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. should reveal the details behind his mysterious leave of absence from Congress.

This photo taken March 31, 2009 shows Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jackson is the subject of a preliminary inquiry from a congressional ethics board looking into his attempts to be appointed to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington (CNN) -- The top Democrats in the House of Representatives are split on whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. should reveal the details behind his mysterious leave of absence from Congress.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois, should disclose information on his own timetable, but Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House minority whip, said Jackson's office should provide an update.

"He's obviously facing a health problem," Hoyer said Wednesday in response to a question from CNN. "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 for more detail.

Rep. Jackson's ailments 'more serious' than 'initially believed'

Pelosi deferred to the nine-term representative.

"The time is right when Congressman Jackson has an evaluation of what his situation is, and I'm sure then he will share it with his constituents," she said.

Pressure began mounting on Jackson Tuesday after comments to reporters in Chicago by fellow Illinois Democrat Sen. 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 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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