Jefferson: Pelosi has to act now
by skeptic06, Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 04:35:17 AM EST
I really hope that the Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership have been working out the angles for weeks.
This is what I've managed in the space of a day or two:
Last time we saw a CBC/Pelosi confrontation, it was the dog that didn't bark. Pelosi passed on Hastings for HIC, and the CBC seemed to suck it up.
Then we get the LA-2 runoff and the CBC back Dollar Bill. Some leading CBC-ers already nailed their colors to the Jefferson mast.
Now, whatever the hopes that Carter would make it, it must at all times have been clear that Jefferson was, at the very least, in with a chance. And that, if he was victorious, it would pose an immediate problem for a party which had made such a hullabaloo about the culture of corruption and which was proposing, as its first legislative business in the 110th, to offer a bill tightening up on Congressional ethics rules.
Now, the worst has happened. The guy with $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer will be coming back to the Capitol - and (thanks to SCOTUS in the case of Adam Clayton Powell) there's no way of stopping him.
He will have to be seated. But that does not imply that he will have to remain a member of the Dem House caucus.
So - let's suppose (please God!) that Pelosi decides that he should not remain a caucus member. When does she make a statement on the matter? The longer she waits, the more Jefferson's continued membership of the Caucus becomes a fait accompli.
On the other hand, her troops are now scattered: testing the temperature of the party on the Jefferson question without the chance for dialogue in person is pretty tricky.
When do the troops return to DC in preparation for the new Congress which starts on Thursday, January 4? New Year's parties, all that jazz - I can't see there being more than a couple of days tops in which the vast majority of Dem reps will be inside the beltway.
Ergo, Pelosi needs to act in the next day or two, having judged the temper of the party as best she can.
Do the rules permit a person duly elected as a Dem rep, and a member of the Caucus in the preceding Congress, to be expelled? On what grounds? Under what procedure?
The Caucus rules are private - so the likes of you and I don't get to know such things.
But let's suppose that Jefferson can be excluded by simple majority of Dem reps present and voting in the Caucus. So there's no procedural impediment to kicking him out as soon as the Caucus can meet after the New Year.
As soon as Pelosi announces for exclusion, Jefferson's trade union, the CBC, will go troppo. It'll be the Scottsboro Boys all over again. Not to mention Emmet Till and the 16th Street Baptist Church. There'll be call-and-response-ing across the land - wherever there's a mike open.
What have the CBC got? They could threaten to walk out of the Caucus. How does that pan out?
Presumably, if they walk out, the old bulls (Rangel and Conyers) lose the chairs that they've been coveting all these long years. And they won't be voting for the Lioness for Speaker - which means that Boehner (?) gets to go to the ball, and the GOP to organize the House.
Now that's what I call a politique du pire!
OK, let's retrace our steps: let's say the CBC don't walk out. Let's say they hang tough, and defy the Caucus to boot Jefferson over their objections.
What then? Now, Chris has already mentioned that Dems tend to walk on eggshells when talking about the CBC - it's somehow the liberal Dem equivalent of Lost Cause nostalgia for Southerners for a century after the end of the Civil War.
Pelosi will be asking them to choose: between her and the future, or the CBC and their white guilt for a past for which they had no responsibility.
Of course, by so doing, Pelosi is putting her own job on the line: first woman US House Speaker and most senior elected woman in US history.
But she only needs 116 votes (assuming, like I said, that it's a simple majority vote - and all Caucus members voting) to boot Jefferson and vindicate her own leadership. That leaves a lot of room for the garment-rending fraternity to angst themselves into a state of abstention or (even) support for Jefferson without putting a Pelosi win in jeopardy.
Now, Pelosi is not a guy, and so lacks the necessary hormones that make for pissing contests and other male fatuities. If putting her job on the line wasn't necessary, I can't see her doing it.
But it is. And she has plenty of other things she could be doing with her time. Her baby has just had a baby: you don't need to be Italian for that to be huge.
And she's past the age most folks retire. And breakfast in bed with Paul might be a pleasing prospect.
She can't fake it: she needs to get a win here, she needs to say vaffunculo to anyone, or any group, that stands in the way of that win, and she needs to be reconciled to walking away if she loses.
It helps that the CBC-ers in pole position are themselves old-ish and may well not want to risk their own chairs for the sake of the Man with the Chilled Lettuce.
Nancy - your call.