Friday, June 09, 2006

Dems to Dump Jefferson from Committee

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has recommended that Congressman Bill Jefferson be dumped from his post on the Ways and Means Committee. The decision is likely to be ratified by the full Democratic caucus next Thursday, but it apparently will cause a fight with the Congressional Black Caucus:

Vote Sets Stage for Jefferson Ways and Means Expulsion
Thursday, June 8; 8:10 pm
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

Members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted to toss Rep. William Jefferson (La.) from the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday evening, a recommendation that is expected to be ratified next Thursday by the full Democratic Caucus -- unless the Congressman steps down on his own before then.
Democratic leaders had attempted to push the embattled Louisianan's expulsion through Thursday night, hastily scheduling a full Caucus meeting less than two hours after the Steering and Policy session broke up. But when Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the co-chairwoman of Steering and Policy, offered her panel's recommendation to the Caucus for consideration, Rep. Mel Watt (N.C.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, rose to object, arguing that Caucus meetings require advance notice of five legislative days.

A discussion ensued, after which Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, ruled that consideration of the Jefferson matter would be postponed until next Thursday.

Tonight's developments are expected to bring to the surface the tensions between the CBC and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who set this chain of events in motion by calling for Jefferson to give up his seat on the influential committee two weeks ago, "in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the Democratic Caucus."

Watt had warned Pelosi that any formal sanctions against Jefferson, who is the subject of a federal bribery probe, before an indictment would be met with a loud public outcry from the CBC. A CBC source has estimated that about two-thirds of the group's 43 members share Watt's view that, guilty or not, Jefferson is being treated differently than past House Members who have been suspected of, but not charged with, any wrongdoing.

...If the Democratic Caucus does vote to unseat Jefferson from Ways and Means, the issue would then go to the full House. Typically, when a change in a committee assignment reaches the floor, the opposite party approves it without objection, but some Democrats are suspicious that Republicans might look for a way to play tricks with a floor debate on Jefferson in an effort to score political points.

This could provide an opportunity for the House GOP to score political points, but I suspect that they will tread lightly. After all, they could find several of their Members held to similar standards before the year is out.
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