Reporting Jay Levine
CHICAGO (CBS) – CBS 2 has learned U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. planned to step down weeks ago, ostensibly for mental health reasons, but a legal source said he talked Jackson and his wife, Sandi, out of that decision to resign before the election.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the source — a longtime adviser who was involved in those discussions — said part of the reason Jackson reconsidered stepping down was the prospect of losing his federal health insurance just when he needed it most.
Despite earlier statements that he was simply taking time off to rest and receive treatment for a bipolar disorder, insiders – including those who have spoken to him, like Congressman Danny Davis – said they believe there’s a very real possibility Jackson will never be ready to return to Congress.
“I got the feeling that there was additional time needed,” Davis said of his conversations with Jackson.
Davis said Jackson perhaps would need until after the inauguration, but even then his return to Capitol Hill wasn’t guaranteed.
“By January, after the State of the Union address, when you get back down to serious business, … the congressman might have been in a position, at that point, to determine the extent to which he would be able to serve, or do something else.
Jackson has been on a medical leave from Congress since June, while he’s undergone treatment for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. He’s also facing a Congressional ethics probe over his attempts to be appointed to now-President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, and is reportedly being investigated by federal prosecutors over possible misuse of campaign funds to redecorate his home. He’s reportedly been in discussions for a plea agreement with the feds.
With the combination of legal and medical issues hanging over Jackson’s head, there has been speculation Jackson could decide to step down, rather than serve out the new term to which he was just elected.
A highly placed Democratic Party source tells CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley a meeting by committeemen to prepare for a potential resignation by Jackson – and possibly back a replacement — could come as soon as next week.
Cook County Clerk David Orr said, should the federal investigation be close to completion, authorities should remember that there are already local elections scheduled in several Cook County suburbs in February and April, which would make it easier to stage a special election for any Congressional vacancy at the same time.
“The feds are smart. They understand taxpayers, they understand the issues. So all I’m saying is I want the people to understand that we do have existing dates for February and April, and if at all possible – if this happens, which we don’t know – it would be nice that we could save the taxpayers money,” Orr said.
If a special election is necessary, the Chicago Board of Elections will be ready for it.
Spokesman Jim Allen said, “If there were a to be a vacancy in office – whether it’s someone being appointed to a Cabinet position, or someone leaving under any other circumstances – we’re prepared for a special primary, and a special election in 2013.”
In the end, it may not be the legal problems — which are the source of new rumors and reports nearly every day — but his mood swings and bouts with depression which keep Jackson from representing the voters who just re-elected him.
As CBS 2 is reporting for the first time Thursday night, the congressman was actually prepared to resign before the election. Reconsidering that decision might simply have been delaying the inevitable.
–CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.