The U.S. House's top budget writer said Tuesday he has early stage Parkinson's disease but the illness is not affecting his life or political plans.
South Carolina Democratic Rep. John Spratt made his illness public as he filed papers to run again for the seat he's held since 1982. The 67-year-old Spratt said in a statement that he wanted to discuss his health to resolve rumors.
"The symptoms are mild and the progression is slow. The chief symptom is an occasional tremor in my right hand, which responds to medication and is mostly a nuisance. The other symptom is in my posture, which is bent a bit, but I hope to correct it with exercise," he said.
Spratt said the symptoms don't affect him mentally or physically and his neurologist was "pleased with the status and slow progression, and told me, 'If you are looking for a reason not to run again, this is not it.'"
Spratt said he wouldn't run if he lacked "the energy, motivation, and ability to do this job to the fullest."
The congressman, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, said questions about his health have been circulating. He had to keep off his feet for six weeks last year after surgery on his Achilles' tendon and had outpatient prostate surgery that doesn't involve cancer.
Spratt didn't immediately respond to a message left at his home and his spokesman didn't immediately respond to e-mail or a phone message.
He is a top target for Republicans in November. Republican state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, who is running for the seat that hugs the North Carolina state line, said Tuesday that rumors about Spratt's health had been circulating for months, including the possibility of Parkinson's disease.
"That shouldn't matter," Mulvaney said.
Spratt grew up in York and is a former U.S. Army captain and lawyer. He and his wife, Jane, have three children.
He was first elected to the U.S. House in 1982 and has repeatedly confounded Republicans trying to pick up the seat in a district anchored by Republican-leaning York County. In 2006, Spratt handily defeated Republican state Rep. Ralph Norman with 57 percent of the vote and in 2008 won a 14th term with 62 percent of the vote over Republican Albert Spencer.
He's been known as one of the House's top fiscally conservative Democrats and criticized Bush administration deficits as costs that would be passed on to grandchildren. Since Barack Obama's inaugural, Spratt has said economic recovery is the first priority instead of minding deficits.