Congressional Black Caucus Angry at Pelosi Letter
Nancy Pelosi’s shrewd move in asking Rep. William Jefferson, who the FBI has on video taking bribes and had $90,000 stashed in his freezer, to resign has been met with open revolt from the Congressional Black Caucus.
Furious black lawmakers, rallying behind Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), were pulled back from the brink of open revolt against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in an emergency meeting with her yesterday. The meeting with a handful of CBC members was called after Pelosi wrote the embattled lawmaker, who is at the center of a massive bribery scandal, a curt note requesting his immediate resignation from the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Outraged that one of its members was being picked on even though he has not been charged with a crime, the Congressional Black Caucus had intended to issue a defiant statement against their leader but agreed after the meeting to pause, at least briefly, for reflection.
Earlier this week, Pelosi approached Jefferson and told him that she thought he should resign, according to a Democratic aide. Later, at the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday morning, she took him into a side room and told him that she had prepared a letter calling on him to resign the committee seat and that she would allow him one hour to withdraw gracefully before she sent it, according to the aide. In both instances, Jefferson remained defiant.
Pelosi’s one-sentence missive to Jefferson called on him to vacate his committee seat “in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus.” Jefferson promptly refused, calling her request “discriminatory” and “unprecedented,” and suggested that she was employing a double standard by failing to ask other lawmakers facing ethics questions to relinquish their committee assignments. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) has come under fire for earmarks he secured through his seat on the Appropriations Committee.
The CBC’s chairman, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), engaged in a heated argument with Pelosi on the House floor Tuesday afternoon after Watt heard reports that Pelosi was considering calling for Jefferson’s ouster, according to one witness. Members of the CBC are expected to confront Pelosi today in a meeting that was previously scheduled to address separate concerns about Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). That meeting is now likely to focus more on Jefferson, a Democratic aide said.
With 43 members, the CBC is a formidable force in the 202-member Democratic caucus and one Pelosi is unusually reluctant to antagonize. Should Democrats take the House, the CBC would control four, and possibly five, committee chairmanships. [emphasis added]
Most lawmakers would not comment afterwards, but a CBC aide summed up some members’ frustration, saying, “Congresswoman Pelosi, by preemption without any legal justification, has now created a new precedent for how members are going to be treated. Unfortunately, she’s chosen to single out an African-American for this honor.” Then the aide added an electoral threat, saying, “The African-American community, which overwhelmingly backs the Democratic Party, will not take this lightly. I hope she enjoys being minority leader.”
Amazing. The Democrats are, understandably, trying to attack the Republicans as the party of corruption after a series of scandals. The CBC’s members have done already done much to undermine that, notably the Jefferson and Cynthia McKinney scandals. And now this.
If the GOP isn’t already sending these guys money, they need to.