Jefferson: Pelosi has to act now

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.

Uh oh.

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.

Tags: Alcee Hastings, CBC, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Ethics, Democratic Caucus, Democratic Ethics Bill (110th Congress), Pelosi, William Jefferson (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Re: Jefferson: Pelosi has to act now

Rep. Jefferson was elected by the people of his district.

Rep. Jefferson hasn't so much as been reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee over his behavior.

House ethics rules should apply equally to all members, not be drawn up on an ad hoc basis to address political perceptions.

So your 'What should Nancy do about William Jefferson' diary could just as easily be written about Jane Harman, Allan Mollohan, or any other Dem that was ever accused of something but never faced ethical or legal sanction.

Jefferson will be seated, given his committee assignments, and Speaker Pelosi will make a statement that the people of LA-2 have spoken and Rep. Jefferson will take his place in the 110th Congress subject to the same strict ethical process as every other member. If Rep. Jefferson or any other member is found to violate ethical rules by the process then he will face the stiffest sanction. But the 110th House is a run by rules, not political winds.

I think Rep. Jefferson will ultimately be indicted   as do many people but what people 'think' and what is are often very different. There's no crisis involved with Jefferson's re-election.
- - -

Your closing analysis of Pelosi's leadership abilities based on such details that 'Pelosi is not a guy', her age, and her being Italian are ageist, sexist, and ethnic garbage.

by joejoejoe 2006-12-11 05:53AM | 0 recs
A closer reading...

will suggest that I was pointing to Pelosi's strengths in dealing with the problem.

Not being the slave of testosterone would be a good thing, surely? And having a life outside Congress so as not to need to make egregious careerist compromises would also be good thing.

I was suggesting, in fact, that Pelosi was in an excellent position to deal effectively the Jefferson matter, probably better than any of her fellow Dem reps, had they been in her shoes.

As for Jefferson, jail time naturally demands a high level of proof and a fair trial.

But here we're talking about politics, and what is best for the Dem party.

And, for that purpose, the Feds finding $90,000 of marked bills in his freezer is enough to can him from the Caucus right now. (If they'd found $90,000 in Mollohan's freezer, I'd expect the same treatment for him.)

by skeptic06 2006-12-11 06:37AM | 0 recs
90,000 in the freezer?

That's all it takes in my book.  This little scumbag is as corrupt as anyone in Congress.  

He should be summarily ejected from Congress.  No time like the present.

by dataguy 2006-12-11 07:10AM | 0 recs
How about focusing on impeaching Bush

I do wonder why Pelosi, who is from a safe district, and who obviously has the right views on Iraq, and is no friend of Bush regardless of her daughter's HBO travelogue, tries to act like they are not interested in impeaching Bush regardless of the facts just to portray the Democrats as conciliatary, but she seems to be stubborn on principle when it comes to Jefferson. I am not saying Jefferson doesn't deserve what's coming to him. But it will be nice if the Democrats fight just as hard in convicting white Republicans who have done wrong. I understand she didn't want to compromise too much with the CBC. Why compromise with the Repubs?

P.S.: Check my history before anyone accuses me of making excuses for Jefferson.

by Pravin 2006-12-11 07:48AM | 0 recs
I don't see a comparable case here

Jefferson: We have IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE of crime.  $ 90,000 in the freezer...attempts at covering up...it's pretty clear.

Plus, Jefferson is OUR problem.  We have to remove the MOTE in our own eye, before we discuss the log in the eye of the country.

With Bush, I too believe that he committed crimes.  It is GETTING the EVIDENCE which will be next to impossible.  I remind the Reader that we still do NOT KNOW the composition of the Energy Advisory Board convened by Cheney early on.  This is small potatoes, but the Bush mafia has taken Executive Privelege on this to the SC, and they won.  Thus, we won't know who is writing policy for 12 years minimum.  

Getting evidence sufficient to convince Republicans to vote on Bush will be MORE difficult.  I don't see it as possible.

by dataguy 2006-12-11 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't see a comparable case here

I did't mean they should impeach Bush right awat. But she and some other leading democrats seem to have taken even exploring the idea off the table. They seem defensive when talking about it.

Lieberman has  a shady slush fund with respect to his campaigning. I did not see a single Democrat asking for that to be investigated. Lamont's people are alone in asking for an investigation.

With Jefferson, he is 99.9999% guilty. BUt if it was irrefutable, he would be convicted already. That time will come soon where the evidence will be deeemed irrefutable.

Jefferon deserves what he gets and shame on the CBC and people who voted for him. But they are not the only people who condone wrongdoings. It's
all politics.

by Pravin 2006-12-11 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Jefferson: Pelosi has to act now

I don't think the CBC is that ignorant to walk out on the party caucus. They represent African Ameicans all over our country, And the would be an injustice to all of us.

by JMART766 2006-12-11 10:02AM | 0 recs

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