Friday, June 16, 2006

Democrats Move On Jefferson

This is definitely a positive step from House Democrats in the case of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). They voted to remove Jefferson from the House Ways and Means committee. The vote was 99-58 in favor of removal and among those continuing to defend Jefferson are the Congressional Black Caucus. The motion now goes to the full House.

I have to credit Pelosi and the leadership for trying to deal with this issue in a forthright manner. She had been pushing Jefferson to step down quietly from the committee while the investigation continues, but Jefferson has defiantly refused. Jefferson's actions forced Pelosi's hand and meant that the caucus had to decide what to do next - and this vote shows that while there is strong support for tossing Jefferson from the committee, more than a few members of Congress are uncomfortable with such a move, despite the evidence presented thus far.

Jefferson is a disgrace and has yet to provide a good explanation for why investigators found all manner of incriminating evidence in their searches of his townhome and office, including $90,000 found wrapped in aluminum foil and plastic containers in his townhome freezer.

I only alluded to this above, but some in Congress, especially the Congressional Black Caucus are seeing this action against Jefferson through the prism of race. They wonder whether a white member of Congress, say Patrick Kennedy would be tossed from a committee because of alleged misdeeds.

They have a point. There is a certain amount of inconsistency among the members of Congress - on both sides of the aisle over corrupt and shady politicians. And we shouldn't leave the policing of the matter up to Congress itself.

Now, Jefferson does make sense with this comment as well:
"[Pelosi's] behavior is rooted in a political strategy she believes will enable the Democrats to gain the majority in the House and realize her dream of becoming Speaker of the House, which disregards the interests of the people of Louisiana, ignores firmly established House precedent, and fails to observe the rules of fairness and nondiscrimination," Jefferson wrote.

He noted that he has not been charged with a crime, and that "historically, even when a member of Congress has been so charged, he or she steps aside from a committee or subcommittee chairmanship, but not from the committee itself."

Pelosi denied that she is being unfairly harsh. "I told all my colleagues, anybody with $90,000 in their freezer, you have a problem at that point."
Well, of course Pelosi is thinking about whether dumping Jefferson will help the entire party regain the House. That's part of her job description in leading the party. If she wasn't thinking along those lines, there would be a serious problem with her leading the Democrats in the House. Of course, Jefferson thinks he's being tossed under the bus in order to speed along Pelosi's personal ambitions, but it's also the ambition of the Democrats to retake the house, and one of their ongoing themes throughout the past several months has been the GOP culture of corruption. Having a Democrat on the Ways and Means committee who is under an ongoing and growing investigation into bribery, corruption, and other assorted criminal activites, and was found with $90,000 in the freezer undercuts the entire theory that the culture of corruption is solely on the GOP side of the aisle.

I wish GOPers would take similar steps against their own as well.

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