Saturday, February 17, 2007
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who yanked embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson off a powerful tax committee last year, has decided to put him on the Homeland Security panel, aides to the Louisiana Democrat confirmed yesterday.
The move infuriated some Republicans, who accuse him of being a potential security risk.
Jefferson has been the subject of an ongoing federal bribery investigation related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. His Capitol Hill office and his homes in Washington and New Orleans have been raided by the FBI, and he was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee last June after affidavits and evidence seized in the raids became public.
Nevertheless, Jefferson won reelection in December to a ninth term, and he has been an outspoken critic of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Pelosi's decision to appoint Jefferson to the committee must still be formally approved by House Democrats.
"It sends a terrible message," said Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican. "They couldn't trust him to write tax policy, so why should he be given access to our nation's top secrets or making policy for national defense?
"Members of the committee have access to intelligence secrets, plots here in the country, overseas, and people under suspicion. This shows how unimportant the Democrats think homeland security is," King said.
Jefferson's chief of staff, Eugene Green, called King's criticism "ridiculous and just politics."
"Representing New Orleans as he does, we're very concerned as to what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Green said. "It's just natural for the congressman to serve his constituents on a committee of this nature."