March 1, 2007

Democrats Have To Double Down On Dollar Bill

Normally, committee assignments get approved by voice vote with no opposition. The political parties have plenty of incentives to allow themselves to police their own, and confrontation will breed more confrontation later. However, the Republicans have decided to risk it in order to force individual Democrats in the House to cast a vote approving the assignment of William Jefferson to the Homeland Security Committee, despite an ongoing corruption probe:

House Republicans plan to force a floor vote on the appointment of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who is the subject of a federal bribery investigation, to a seat on the Homeland Security Committee.

The decision to put Jefferson on the panel was made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), and House Democrats endorsed the move at a private meeting Tuesday night, but his appointment must be confirmed by a vote on the House floor. Such an action would normally be a formality, but Republicans said yesterday that they would pursue a rarely used maneuver to force a recorded vote on the matter. ...

A spokesman for Pelosi said she opted to place Jefferson on Homeland Security because the panel oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Jefferson had been a vocal critic of FEMA's performance during Hurricane Katrina, which affected thousands of his constituents.

But his appointment must be formally approved by the House, and Republicans said they would take the rare step of challenging the vote and requiring members to record their votes so Democrats will be forced to go on the record in their support of Jefferson.

Such appointments usually are ratified on the House floor by unanimous consent.

It's a good call in this case. The FBI found over $90,000 in cash sitting in Jefferson's freezer, the alleged result of a bribe from an official of another country. Denny Hastert and Nancy Pelosi defended Jefferson against a subsequent FBI raid on Jefferson's Capitol Hill offices, and the backlash was enough to get them both to eventually back away from Jefferson.

Pelosi says that Jefferson's district deserves to have representation on the Katrina subcommittee. That may well be true, but unfortunately his district elected a corrupt politician who cannot be trusted with the assignment. Jefferson proved that during Katrina, when he shanghaied National Guard rescue personnel to help him clean out his house in the middle of the storm. Instead of saving lives, Jefferson had them saving sofas -- hardly an endorsement of his good judgment on the cleanup efforts.

Peter King says he fails to see how Democrats can cast a vote in the open for Jefferson. We'll see. If Pelosi continues to play the Katrina card, she may pull it off, but she leaves the Democrats open for attacks on the "culture of corruption" strategy they used in 2006.


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