Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nancy Pelosi's Bill Jefferson Problem

From the New York Observer:

It has been three months since the 110th Congress was sworn in, but Ms. Pelosi still refuses to keep her word and seat that district’s duly elected representative on the Homeland Security Committee—despite the obvious value of such a committee assignment to the Second District, which was decimated by Hurricane Katrina.

There are reasons for the Speaker’s reluctance—mainly political, but also very personal.

For starters, there’s the identity of the Second District’s Congressman: William Jefferson. All of Washington has been waiting for his indictment since August 2005, when F.B.I. agents raided his home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.
Now, Republicans are drooling over the prospect of Ms. Pelosi taking Mr. Jefferson’s committee nomination to the House floor—the perfect opportunity for the G.O.P.’s most sanctimonious attack dogs to force a fight and remind Americans of the Speaker’s promise to deliver “the most ethical Congress in history.”

There’s also the grudge factor. Long before that infamous cash began to thaw out, Mr. Jefferson had earned a prominent spot on Ms. Pelosi’s enemies list by seeking to undermine her standing among House Democrats after she refused to appoint him to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2002. Cross her even once, and Ms. Pelosi will still be twisting her knife in you years later.

So Ms. Pelosi, like a football coach trying to protect a lead by running out the clock, is delaying, hoping that much-anticipated indictment at last materializes and gives her cover for denying Mr. Jefferson his seat. It’s not the worst strategy, considering the damning evidence that has already emerged.

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