U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is on medical leave of absence for "exhaustion." Why did it take two weeks for his office to announce his departure? Carol Marin has the latest on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.
Chicago Tonight spoke with Debbie Halvorson, former U.S. Representative for Illinois' 11th congressional district who failed to unseat Jackson, Jr. in the last election. Here's what she had to say:
What are your thoughts about Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s medical leave?
First of all, he owes it to his constituents to explain exactly what it’s really about and how long he’s going to be gone. The district needs a representative. The work is not something his staff can do. This is a district that I traveled through during the primary. He needs to be out there. The constituents need an actual member of Congress fighting for resources and fighting for what the district needs. There needs to be a representative out there representing the constituents. This is a district that is hurting and the people need a member of Congress representing them.
Do you think Jackson, Jr. is being treated for exhaustion?
I would hope it’s more than exhaustion because when you are an elected official or member of Congress, exhaustion is not an excuse. He owes it to people to let them know what’s going on and why he’s really taking time off. If he can’t do the job, he’s got to let people know. I’m speaking on behalf of the constituents. I lost the election already, I’m out of it. I’m speaking for the constituents.
Do you think the timing of his medical leave has anything to do with Raghuveer Nayak’s recent arrest?
I think it’s a culmination of everything, and maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He has a history of running from his problems and maybe everything now is too much for him. The House Ethics Committee is not going to go away. They may be slow but they are not going to go away. Maybe everything together is just getting to him.
How do you think this will interfere with his role as a member of Congress?
It’s going to really hurt the district. The only thing is he’s already been gone two weeks and nobody knew. He’s not out there voting. He’s got to be out there fighting for resources that need to come back to the district. He needs to be out there listening to what the people need. He’s not in Washington or the district representing people so this is a problem.
If there is something more life-threatening, I pray for his healthy return. And if that’s the case, he needs to come forward and be truthful about what the problem is. Exhaustion is no excuse to take a leave of absence. If he is ill, I will pray for him and his family, and pray for a speedy recover. I wish him no harm. But he needs to be working on behalf of the people that he represents.