Hoyer, Rep. Gutierrez pressure Jesse Jackson Jr. to explain leave of absence

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on Wednesday joined the growing number of lawmakers publicly calling on Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to offer the public more information about his leave of absence from Congress.

Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters during a press conference that he believes the congressman, his family, and his office "would be well-advised to advise the constituents of his condition."

"This is not an unusual circumstance. People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that. But I think his family would be well-advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate," Hoyer said.

Hoyer's comments follow similar sentiments expressed by Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez Tuesday.

"I know that we want to say that we have private lives, and I do have a private life. I also have a public life," Gutierrez told reporters at an unrelated news conference, according to news reports. "If I don't show up to work, then I need to give—I don't have this immunity or this shield of privacy—because it's about my job. And any time I haven't shown up to work, I've given you a clear answer about why it was I wasn't there."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters Monday Jackson will "have to soon make a report on what he's struggling with."

On June 25, Jackson's office first revealed that the congressman had been on a "medical leave of absence" from Congress due to exhaustion since June 10. No additional details were offered until July 5, when Jackson's staff announced that the congressman was at an "in-patient medical facility" and his undisclosed condition was "more serious" than originally assumed.

Jackson's family, colleagues and staff have offered no additional information. His father, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, on Tuesday told NBC Chicago it would be "inappropriate" to disclose details.

He is "slowly regaining his strength, on his medical supervision, and he's taking his time recovering, and of course we pray for him," his father said.

An anonymous aide told the Chicago Sun-Times further details could be released as soon as Wednesday.

An anonymous senior aide close to the congressman told ABC News Tuesday that Jackson is unlikely to return before Labor Day and denied a rumor that Jackson's absence follows a suicide attempt. But the source did say the pressure related to ethics allegations against Jackson is partially responsible for his exhaustion.

The House Ethics Committee has been investigating Jackson for his alleged connections to the possibly improper process of filling the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama.

Jackson's former fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, was indicted June 20 on 19 counts of fraud related to surgery centers he owns. Nayak was charged with paying bribes and kickbacks to doctors who sent patients to his centers. Nayak pleaded not guilty.

Previously, Nayak allegedly told federal investigators that Jackson asked him to raise money for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to persuade him to appoint Jackson to the Senate.

In addition to those ethics issues, Jackson has had his personal affairs played out in public. In 2010, Jackson's wife, Sandi Jackson, confirmed her husband was having an extramarital affair following news reports that Jackson had asked Nayak to buy plane tickets for the woman.