U.S. Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) speaks to reporters after arriving back at Reagan National Airport in Washington in this May 22, 2006 file photo. House Democrats voted on June 15, 2006 to remove Rep. Jefferson from the powerful Ways and Means Committee while federal investigators weigh possible bribery charges against the Louisiana Democrat. Jefferson will not be forced off the tax-writing committee unless the entire House of Representatives votes to do so.
ASSociated Press: House Dems strip Jefferson of assignment
House Democrats, determined to make an election-year point about ethics, voted 99-58 on Thursday night to strip Rep. William Jefferson of his committee assignment while a federal bribery investigation runs its course.
The rank and file acted despite a last-minute plea by the embattled Louisiana lawmaker and persistent complaints from the Congressional Black Caucus that there was neither rule nor precedent for the action.
Jefferson has not been indicted and maintains his innocence. In remarks to reporters, he conceded that “serious allegations” swirl around him.
After weeks of defiance, he also left open the possibility that he might at last surrender the seat voluntarily before the issue reaches the House floor for final action. “I don’t want to speculate,” he said.
Within an hour of the vote, Jefferson disclosed he had offered on Wednesday to step aside on the condition that the caucus establish a rule covering cases like his and that his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee go temporarily to a fellow Louisiana Democrat, Rep. Charles Melancon.
“Ms. Pelosi politely declined my offer,” he said in a written statement, referring to Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. Pelosi’s office confirmed the exchange.
The three-hour closed door meeting marked the culmination of a drive by Pelosi to take action. “This isn’t about proof in a court of law. This is about an ethical standard,” she told reporters.
Duhhhh it is about ethical standards. The FBI has the Congressman on tape accepting a bribe and they found $90,000 in cold hard cash in his home freezer.
Say Good Night Gracie……..
But, the Congressional Black Caucus is still fighting leader Pelosi:
With members of the Congressional Black Caucus crying double standard, House Democrats met behind closed doors Thursday and voted to strip Rep. William Jefferson of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Mel Watt, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the decision “unprecedented” and concurred with Jefferson in comments to reporters after the vote.
House rules state that a legislator must be convicted before being removed from a committee, and Democratic Caucus rules state that heads or ranking members of committees must be indicted or be presented with formal charges before being removed.
Jefferson has not been charged with a crime.
“What we’ve done today is set a standard for regular members that’s actually lower — or higher, depending on how you look at it — than the standard we set for our chairs or ranking members,” Watt said. “We’ve set a standard that’s higher than the House rules require, and that would be fine if we knew what the rule is going forward.”
Asked if he thought race was a factor in Pelosi’s decision, Jefferson replied before the vote, “It’s not happened before. The first time it’s happening, it’s happening to an African-American.”
The assertion that race is a factor has already been floated by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Watt, who question why Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, a white Democrat who also is under investigation, was allowed to keep his seat on the equally powerful Appropriations Committee.
Mollohan, whose personal finances are being investigated after a complaint filed by a conservative group, stepped down voluntarily from his post on the Ethics Committee, pending resolution of the inquiry.
Watt warned last week that singling out Jefferson would not be received well by black voters.
Thursday, he said, “Our constituents will import their own interpretation into this, and a number of them will import that there’s a different standard in our caucus based on race.”
Jefferson also raised race in his letter to Pelosi.
“When an African American member of an exclusive committee is asked to resign his committee because of news reports or allegations of wrongdoing, it gives the appearance of unfairness and even racial discrimination if another member continues serving on an exclusive committee under Justice Department investigation as well, particularly if the other member is white, and is not subject to the same treatment,” he wrote.
Clyburn, who is a former chairman of the black caucus, said he bears no hard feelings for Pelosi.
“Ms. Pelosi has a right and I think the responsibility to make political decisions in the best interest of this caucus,” he said. “These things come with the territory. You have to do what you have to do.”
Ahhhhh the old RACE CARD……Man, it is played alot in the United States House of Representatives – ask Cynthia McKinney
Congressman, you are a disgrace to your office.
Now, do the right thing, develop some class and resign.
Stay tuned for the vote when the GOP majority will indulge the Democrats and throw Jefferson out of the House.
Michelle Malkin has DEMS CALL DEMS RACISTÂ
Don’t worry. They’ll all find a way to blame Bush somehow.
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