The William Jefferson Chronicles

Democrats vote to remove Jefferson from Ways and Means
In an unprecedented and historic move, House Democrats voted 99-58 late Thursday to recommend that Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, be removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee while he remains under federal investigation.

The issue now goes to the full House, which is expected to accept the recommendation.

Jefferson is the target of a federal probe that has already netted guilty pleas from two men who say they helped bribe the congressman in exchange for his help with telecommunications deals in Africa.

Jefferson has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing. In an emotional speech to the Democratic Caucus before the vote, he noted that it was unheard of to remove someone from a committee before they had even been charged or had the chance to defend themselves in court.

Congressional historians said that while some members have been forced to leave leadership or chairmanship while under investigation, they could find no record of a member ever having to surrender a committee seat.

But, with a strong push from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democrats agreed to remove Jefferson from the powerful tax-writing panel. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have argued that Jefferson's position made it more difficult for them to criticize Republicans for recent scandals, especially during a key mid-term election period.

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