House Moves to Investigate Jefferson

Via Reuters: House votes to investigate indicted lawmaker

The House of Representatives, prodded by Republicans, voted on Tuesday to possibly consider expelling indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana before he even stands trial.

On a bipartisan vote of 373-26, the Democratic-led House approved a resolution directing its ethics committee to investigate federal bribery charges against Jefferson and recommend whether the nine-term lawmaker should be removed from Congress.

Only five members of the House have been expelled in the past 150 years.

Not surprising, if a little quick. Still, if the NFL can seek to suspend players for poor behavior sans a criminal conviction, it isn’t beyond the pale that the Congress would investigate (and perhaps expel) one of it members before a conviction, depending on the nature of the evidence.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. just me says:

    I am curious why the 26 “nays” voted nay in this case.

  2. David L says:

    Twenty votes not to investigate. The Congresssional Black Caucus perhaps?

  3. Bithead says:

    A little quick? I think not.
    Look, Pelosi has been trying to squash this investigation for the last six months. The prevailing view within Congress has been that this investigation should have been started quite some time ago. With the indictment, Pelosi no longer has cover for her squashing attempts, and the prevailing view of the body of Congress, can go forward.

    Of course, it should be noted, that the reasoning behind the prevailing view of the body of Congress, is fairly well split between Democrats wanting/needing to cut their losses, and Republicans wanting to apply the consequences of Jefferson’s actions and democrat in action about Jefferson, to the forthcoming election.

    And of course in a world which measures speed of action by when the investigation actually starts, Pelosi can say she acted quickly, and decisively.

    It should also be noted, that while the vote was 373 to 26, that thirteen members voted “present”, ffectively voting against the measure to investigate Jefferson. That’s 39 members, gang, not 26.

    Personally, I’d like Jefferson to stay in office as long as possible. If nothing else, he is effective in the role of a millstone around the necks of congressional Democrats.

  4. Michael says:

    Bithead,
    Until now, Jefferson had not been charged with doing anything illegal. Sure we were all told about the bribe money in his freezer, but he has only recently actually been indicted. If anyone has been taking their time on this, it’s the FBI.

    Besides that, this isn’t about investigating whether or not he committed a crime, the FBI is doing that part. This is about investigating whether or not he should be expelled from the House. I’m not sure we want to start expelling people from Congress based on crimes they haven’t been charged with.

    As for Jefferson being a liability to Democrats, I believe more Republicans have been harmed by him so far than Democrats. Remember the outrage when his office was searched by the FBI?

  5. Bithead says:

    Until now, Jefferson had not been charged with doing anything illegal

    Can you imagine a republican getting the same deference from the current Congress?

    Besides that, this isn’t about investigating whether or not he committed a crime, the FBI is doing that part. This is about investigating whether or not he should be expelled from the House.

    Correct. And you will recall, that the Republicans had already passed (And suffered under) a rule stating that anyone caught in such a situation would be removed.

    The Democrats claimed they were going to be even more strict as regards corruption. Apparently, theyn lied… because the first thing they did when this situation came about was to stonewall any action taken against Jefferson.

    And yes, I remember a lot of people complaining about Jefferson’s office being searched. Democrats, mostly. Interestingly, the same group of people, mostly, who worked so hard to stifle any investigation of Jefferson at the Congressional level. Gee… I wonder why?

    And I wonder how they’ll react now that the indictments are in, and that search was validated?

  6. Michael says:

    And you will recall, that the Republicans had already passed (And suffered under) a rule stating that anyone caught in such a situation would be removed.

    Since a member of the House can only be expelled except by a 2/3 majority vote, I don’t see how the Republican party could have passed a rule accomplishing the same without a vote.

    The Democrats claimed they were going to be even more strict as regards corruption. Apparently, theyn lied… because the first thing they did when this situation came about was to stonewall any action taken against Jefferson.

    Let’s see:

    http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/house-approves-speedy-probe-for/20070604133509990001

    Jefferson, meanwhile, resigned his seat on the Small Business Committee in response to his indictment on federal charges of taking more than $500,000 in bribes. Democrats already had moved to take that seat from him.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/22/AR2006052201080.html

    Pelosi refused to appoint Jefferson to the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the 2002 election, and early this month she called for an investigation of his case by the House ethics committee.

    And just to stop anyone from claiming this is all liberal media bias:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,236103,00.html

    Democrats Keep Rep. Jefferson Off Ways and Means Committee Amid Corruption Probe

    House Democrats, insistent that they will hold lawmakers to higher standards, decided Tuesday that Rep. William Jefferson will not return to an influential committee until a federal corruption investigation involving him is completed.

    At Pelosi’s urging, the House last June stripped Jefferson of his committee assignment because of the corruption investigation that included an FBI document asserting that agents had found $90,000 in bribe money in the Louisiana Democrat’s freezer.

    Back to you:

    And yes, I remember a lot of people complaining about Jefferson’s office being searched. Democrats, mostly.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/22/AR2006052201080.html

    Republican leaders, who previously sought to focus attention on the Jefferson case as a counterpoint to their party’s own ethical scandals, said they are disturbed by the raid. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that he is “very concerned” about the incident and that Senate and House counsels will review it.

    House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. “The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case,” he said in a lengthy statement released last night.

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/22/jefferson/

    Both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert said they were “very concerned” about the search, which was conducted under a warrant issued by a federal judge.

    Again, you:

    And I wonder how they’ll react now that the indictments are in, and that search was validated?

    Good question, lets take a look:

    http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/house-approves-speedy-probe-for/20070604133509990001

    The charges against Jefferson, “if proven true, should lead to the expulsion of the member in question,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer , D-Md. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , who earlier ousted Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee, issued a similar statement Monday.

    http://www.chicagodefender.com/page/national.cfm?ArticleID=9606

    Pelosi, D-Calif., later Tuesday was expected to name 10 House Democrats to a pool from which the House ethics committee can pick if it decides to appoint a special subcommittee to investigate the charges against Jefferson.

    It looks like you’ll have to try a little harder to find something to criticize the House Democrats of ethics problems.