Friday, June 16, 2006


Democrats Get One Right

Rep. William Jefferson got tossed from the House Ways & Means Committee today -- one day after the House Democratic caucus recommended that he step aside.

I'm actually sensitive to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who say that this is the first time that a congressman has been stripped of his committee assignment before even an indictment. Yes, he's been caught on tape allegedly accepting the $100,000 bribe and $90,000 was recovered from his freezer.

Black Caucus members said their concern was the lack of any rule pertaining to lawmakers in Jefferson's situation. He has not been indicted in the case but could face serious charges. Jefferson says he is innocent of wrongdoing.

"Our concern is that the rule is really political expediency," said Rep. Melvin Watt (N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Danny K. Davis (Ill.) said the legal question was foremost. "I don't think this has to do with race," Davis said. "Members of the Democratic Caucus are above and beyond that."
Yes, politics has something to do with this. Jefferson's case has seriously screwed up the Democrats' "culture of corruption" plan. However, it's not exactly bad from a policy standpoint to say that Jefferson certainly has his due process rights intact. This action by Democrats and the full House is not incarcerating or dunning him unfairly: It just sends a message that House members should be held to a higher standard.

I have to give Nancy Pelosi some rare kudos here too. It couldn't have been easy to go up against the CBC and face accusations, subtle and otherwise,
of being racist. Instead, she stuck to her guns and did what she felt was the right thing (politically or otherwise) for the party greater good.

Jefferson apparently picked the wrong time to be caught redhanded in some major graft. Rather than being a double-standard, this action -- after the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals -- looks to be the first of many new rules governing congressional behavior that will be coming down the pike regardless of who wins control of Capitol Hill in November.

UPDATE: Clarence Page is exactly correct here.

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