The U.S. House of Representatives voted late last week to expel Representative William J. Jefferson (D-LA) - the unindicted but widely reported subject of an FBI bribery investigation - from the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The action is unprecedented.
Mr. Jefferson represents a congressional district in New Orleans devastated last year by Hurricane Katrina. He is now a Congressman without portfolio, leaving his constituents of the 2nd congressional district of New Orleans minus a voice in Washington at a time when the National Guard has been called back in to patrol hurricane ravaged areas of the Big Easy. Residents of the 2nd have been stripped of their congressional representation in Washington, D.C. by the Democratic Caucus and House of Representatives, not by the will and consent of the governed.
My opposition to the removal of Congressman Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee is not a matter of his guilt or innocence but is a matter of upholding an equitable and due process that is applied to all members of Congress.
Mr. Jefferson has not yet been indicted of any offense, making the actions of the Democratic Caucus and Congress premature. He has been tried and sentenced by his colleagues before being charged of any offense.
A dangerous precedent has been set. The actions of Congress may prove to be politically expedient but have been carried out preemptively and unfairly.