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GOP Will Protest Jefferson's Committee Seat

House Republicans are planning to officially protest the assignment of Rep. William Jefferson to the Homeland Security Committee, citing the ongoing federal corruption investigation that involves the New Orleans Democrat.

As first reported in Capitol Briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assigned Jefferson to the last remaining spot on the highly sought-after Homeland Security panel just before the House left for the Presidents' Day recess. While it's a plum assignment, Homeland Security is a far cry in value compared to the Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi and fellow Democrats ousted him from that panel last summer.

The Democrats posit that placing Jefferson on Homeland Security is not backing down from last summer's rejection from Ways and Means. The allegations against Jefferson are connected to his arrangement of international business deals. That is the sort of thing that would benefit from having a perch on Ways and Means, which oversees trade issues.

Additionally, Jefferson's hometown was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, so he has an expertise with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other response crews that dealt with the Gulf region disaster. FEMA falls under the jurisdictional oversight of the security panel.

Republicans, however, say Homeland Security is a precious committee that shouldn't be devalued. "It is difficult to comprehend how they can approve of Congressman Jefferson's fitness for a seat on the Homeland Security Committee, with access to America's most sensitive and closely-guarded intelligence information," said Minority Leader John Boehner(R-Ohio) in a statement. "House Democrats and their leaders should immediately reconsider this baffling and troubling decision."

Ultimately, all committee assignments must be ratified on the House floor, although it's usually a pro forma vote. In this case, the Democrats might have to allow Republicans to offer an amendment to the latest batch of committee assignments, allowing for a vote solely on Jefferson's Homeland Security slot. Or, if they shut down the amendment process on the committee assignments, Boehner would have to offer a privileged resolution. That's something that only floor leaders are allowed to offer, and it is given immediate consideration.

When Pelosi was in the minority, she used these special resolutions regularly last Congress to put the Republicans on the record about uncomfortable ethical issues. Boehner appears to be relishing the chance to do the same to Democrats, particularly the dozen or so who won their races by razor-thin margins last November.

By Paul Kane  |  February 28, 2007; 5:07 PM ET
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