Jefferson's Movin' On Up
I have high praise for Nancy Pelosi on building a broad-based agenda and acting swiftly to get it enacted. But I don't know what she's thinking here:
The House Democratic Caucus voted on Tuesday night to give Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, a seat on the House Homeland Security Committee. This comes after the caucus stripped Jefferson of his seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee last June.
Jefferson is entangled in a federal bribery investigation related to his dealings with a telecommunications company. Federal investigators found $90,000 in cash in his freezer in 2005 after Jefferson allegedly accepted a $100,000 bribe from an FBI informant. Despite the investigation, Jefferson was re-elected to a ninth term to his New Orleans' seat in a run-off election in December.
I'm guessing that the Congressional Black Caucus forced this appointment so that one of their members wouldn't be pre-judged. But a hundred grand in a freezer is a hundred grand in a freezer. You could make a credible case that the Justice Department is intentionally dragging their feet to ensure that something like this would happen (it's not like DoJ is never used for political purposes). And sure enough, the GOP House leadership struck quickly with an attack:
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.
"This is a terrible mistake by the Democratic leadership, to take someone with serious ethical allegations against him and put him on one of the most sensitive and important committees in Congress," said Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the committee.
Yeah, they're hypocrites about this. Gary Miller just got a subcommittee seat and he's days from being indicted. Pelosi's office even did some pushback to that effect. But why give the Republicans the ammunition? They don't care about being coherent, they just want to attack and attack. There's no reason to give them such an inviting target.
I would have liked to have seen the Democratic leadership hold themselves to a higher ethical standard than the Republicans. Just because Gary Miller got a prime gig is no reason that William Jefferson should get one. He's obviously innocent until proven guilty, but there's a lot of smoke there, too much to reward the man who earlier you stripped from the Ways and Means Committee. I wish that the FBI would finish the investigation and we could all move on. But until then, I think it's a mistake to elevate this guy, considering that his alleged co-conspirators are headed to jail as we speak.