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June 15, 2006
Jefferson Ousted In Democratic Power Play

Rep. William Jefferson, whose freezer held over $90,000 when the FBI searched it in connection with an ongoing bribery and corruption probe, has lost a vote by the House Democratic Caucus to retain his committee seat on the Ways and Means Committee. The lopsided vote affirmed Nancy Pelosi's influence as caucus leader, but may have caused a bitter racial split among her colleagues:

House Democrats, determined to make an election-year point about ethics, voted to strip Rep. William Jefferson of his committee assignment Thursday night while a federal bribery investigation runs its course.

Members of the rank and file approved the move after Jefferson refused for weeks to step aside on his own, and despite claims by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus that he was being treated unfairly.

Officials said the vote was 99-58. The action must be ratified by the full House, and Jefferson left open the possibility that he might at long last relent and surrender the seat on his own. "I don't want to speculate," he said. The session marked the culmination of a drive by the Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, to take action against the embattled Louisiana lawmaker, who maintains his innocence and has not been indicted.

"This is not about a court of law. This is about a higher ethical standard, and you know when it isn't being met," she told reporters several hours before the meeting.

Jefferson is black, and Pelosi, brushing aside criticism from members of the black caucus, told reporters she had been "more than fair."

This may surprise some readers, but Jefferson has a point in his argument, although it has nothing to do with the racial paranoia exhibited by the CBC. Jefferson has not yet been charged with any crime, nor has any grand jury been empaneled to consider an indictment, as far as I have heard. While I think that Jefferson should have taken the honorable action of resigning -- both from the committee and the House -- Pelosi has effectively punished him for a crime for which he has not yet had his due process.

Granted, committee assignments are political in nature, and no doubt Jefferson has embarrassed the Democrats and stolen what they thought was their magic bullet for the midterms, the so-called Republican culture of corruption. However, if that caused Pelosi to take this to a caucus fight, it's more than just a little hypocritical, especially after she and Dennis Hastert asserted that the FBI could not execute a search warrant on Jefferson's office without violating a previously unknown clause in the Constitution that makes Capitol Hill into the halfway House for political delinquents. If embarrassment is good enough reason to split the caucus and cause an eruption of racial disharmony just a few months before the elections, then Pelosi should consider resigning her post as well.

Pelosi argues that the Democrats have a higher ethical standard, and that prompted her to seek his expulsion from committee assignments. If she means that, then she could have just as easily referred him to the Ethics Committee, and let them review the evidence and allow Jefferson his say. It appears that Pelosi wanted more than just a chance to flash some ethics chops. She wanted to show the caucus who's boss, and she succeeded.

I won't mourn for Jefferson, who should have resigned on his own, as I wrote earlier. Failing that, Pelosi should have kept her powder dry until the Department of Justice took some concrete legal action against Jefferson. If they do not turn up enough evidence for an indictment, Pelosi will look very foolish.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 15, 2006 8:00 PM

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» Dems vote to put Jefferson on Ice from Morning Coffee
    From the Times Picayune In an unprecedented and historic move, House Democrats voted 99-58 late Thursday to recommend that Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, be removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee while he rema... [Read More]

Tracked on June 15, 2006 11:00 PM

» Rep. Jefferson Ousted by his Democrat Colleagues from Assorted Babble by Suzie
Wonder how they are physically going to remove him, surely he will not do as one of his colleagues, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga), another flakey Democrat and assault the Captial police. [Read More]

Tracked on June 16, 2006 8:40 AM

» House Dems Say Goodbye To Rep. Jefferson from Stop The ACLU
Via AP House Democrats, determined to make an election-year point about ethics, voted to strip Rep. William Jefferson of his committee assignment Thursday night while a federal bribery investigation runs its course. Members of the rank and file appro... [Read More]

Tracked on June 16, 2006 9:38 AM

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