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The J-bomb

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The indictment of William Jefferson appears to have set off an explosion of activity in Congress, most of it aimed at reviving the moribund Ethics Committee.

The House quickly approved a Democratic motion that makes an ethics investigation mandatory when a member is indicted, then okayed a Republican motion to refer Jefferson’s case to the committee to see if he should be expelled.

The vote was overwhelming on the Democratic motion: 387-10, with 15 members voting “present” and 20 not voting. Of the 25 voting either “nay” or “present”, 16 were Democrats and nine were Republicans.

Of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, by the way, only Lacy Clay and John Conyers voted “nay”, while three voted “present” and five didn’t vote (including Jefferson).

The vote on the Republican motion was only a little closer: 373-26, with 13 “present” and the same 20 members not voting. 13 members of the CBC voted “nay”; three voted “present” and the same five didn’t vote.

One of the CBC members voting “present” in both cases was Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the chairwoman of the ethics committee. She and other members of the committee mostly recused themselves from both votes.

So despite concerns that the CBC would try to protect Jefferson, a strong majority of the caucus supported both measures.

As I’ve said before, the Republican effort is premature, driven as it is by the idea that a simple indictment should lead to expulsion. But the motion merely asks the ethics panel to examine the case and decide if Jefferson should be expelled, so it’s not a big problem as is. I imagine the panel will decide “no” unless truly damning evidence emerges against Jefferson in the meantime.

(continued over at Midtopia)