Questions linger about when Rep. Jackson will work
CHICAGO (AP) — Days after U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was released from a hospital where he was being treated for bipolar disorder, it's still unclear when he'll return to work.
The Chicago Democrat left the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last week and is back in Washington with his family following months out of the public eye on a secretive medical leave. But neither his office, his civil rights leader father, nor his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, could say when Jackson would return to the office.
Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins said Sunday that he had no information. A day earlier, Jackson's father, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, told reporters that he didn't expect his son to rush back.
"I hope he does not move quickly, because he's so anxious to function; so anxious to work. He's programmed in that direction. He wants to serve. I think his people have been quite generous to him in terms of giving him time," Jackson told reporters. "But my concern is that of a father. I have no interest in the political timetable. It's his health timetable, and there is no date certain for that."
The elder Jackson declined to give more details to The Associated Press on Sunday, except to say that his son was still under medical supervision and it was too premature to predict his work schedule.
Very little information has been available about the congressman's condition and recovery.
Jackson's office waited two weeks before disclosing that the 47-year-old congressman went on medical leave June 10 and initially described him as suffering from exhaustion. Later, it referred to his condition as a "mood disorder." Last month, his office disclosed that he was at Mayo and being treated for depression after a transfer from the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona. The Mayo Clinic has said that Jackson was being treated for Bipolar II, which means he was suffering from periodic episodes of depression and hypomania. Hypomania is a less serious form of mania.
Jackson has received visitors, including from former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, but his office has denied interview requests. While a Jackson aide once predicted the congressman would return to work around Labor Day, he's since been mum on the issue.
After Jackson was released from the Mayo Clinic, Sandi Jackson said he was not expected to return to work until released from doctors' care. She didn't elaborate.
The handling and timing of the medical leave has invited scrutiny, most recently from Jackson's political opponents.
Jackson is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for ties to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The committee is looking into allegations Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
The announcement of the leave also came just days after a former fundraiser connected to the allegations was arrested on unrelated federal medical fraud charges.
Jackson, who first took office in 1995, is seeking re-election in his Chicago-area district in November.
While he is widely expected to win, one of his little-known opponents seized the opportunity to criticize his release, including asking why Jackson would return to Washington instead of Chicago, where the family also has a home.
"We now take joy that he has been discharged from the clinic," said a statement from Republican Brian Woodworth, a college professor. "Perhaps Congressman Jackson returned to Washington, D.C., to face his pending Congressional Ethics hearing? Or did he sneak back to Washington as he had fled earlier to Arizona--to keep the new 2nd Congressional District guessing over his ability to lead?"
Jackson easily won a primary challenge earlier this year from former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson. However, he had to run a vigorous campaign and spend time in new rural areas of his largely black, urban and Democratic district.
Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen