|Jefferson steps down from House panel|
Posted by Washington bureau June 05, 2007 10:59AM
Categories: Breaking News
Tuesday, April 10, 2007.
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau - NOLA.com
WASHINGTON - A day after being indicted on bribery and racketeering charges, Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, has decided to step down temporarily from his lone House committee assignment, his Capitol Hill office said Tuesday.
Jefferson's decision to abandon the Small Business Committee came as fellow Democrats were preparing to meet to decide whether to eject him from the panel and Republicans are pushing for his resignation from Congress.
A spokeswoman for Jefferson said it would be a "temporary leave" not a resignation from the panel.
A statement from his office said Jefferson had sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in which he "emphasized that his request to temporarily vacate his committee seat is in no way an admission of guilt to charges filed against him."
"I have supported every ethics and lobbying reform measure that you and our Democratic Majority have authored, and I make this request for leave to support the letter and the spirit of your leadership in this area," Jefferson said in the letter.
A statement from his office said, "Congressman Jefferson believes that he will be cleared of these charges and will later be able to resume his service on this committee."
Jefferson was stripped last summer of his seat on the influential House Ways & Means Committee after revelations that the FBI found $90,000 in marked money concealed in the freezer of his Washington home.
When he decisively won reelection in December, however, Pelosi bowed to pressure, particularly from Jefferson allies in the Congressional Black Caucus, and placed him on the Small Business Committee. Pelosi had considered giving him a seat on the Homeland Security Committee, but Republicans and some Democrats objected saying it was too sensitive a post for someone under criminal investigation.
After a two-year investigation, the Justice Department on Monday unveiled a 16-count indictment against Jefferson alleging that he sought and received bribes for himself and family through an array of business deals in West Africa. Jefferson has said he is innocent and is expected to plead innocent when he is arraigned in federal court Friday.