Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, issued a statement this morning calling for Rep. William Jefferson — the Louisiana Democrat indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges including bribery, racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice — to recuse himself from all committee work:
“The bribery and corruption charges are incredibly serious in nature because they go right to the heart of the ability of a representative government to function.
“The people must be able to trust their elected representatives to act in the people’s interest, not their own.
“I was elected to Congress to help change the way business in Washington is done and I will do so without regard to person or party.
“In the coming days, Congressman Jefferson will answer in a court of law to the 16 charges on which he was indicted. In the meantime, I call on Congressman Jefferson to recuse himself from all of his committee work. In addition, I also request that the Ethics Committee immediately open a full investigation into all of the charges.”
That’s tougher than what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said yesterday. As House Republicans vowed to ask the Ethics Committee to probe Jefferson’s case and report back on whether he should be expelled from Congress, Pelosi said:
“The charges in the indictment against Congressman Jefferson are extremely serious. While Mr. Jefferson, just as any other citizen, must be considered innocent until proven guilty, if these charges are proven true, they constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of public trust and power.
“As we have demonstrated in implementing tough ethics reforms and passing tough lobbying reforms already this year, Democrats are committed to upholding a high ethical standard and eliminating corruption and unethical behavior from the Congress.”
UPDATE @ 4:26 P.M. TUESDAY: This from Congressional Quarterly:
Embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., will temporarily give up his sole remaining committee seat while his bribery case is pending, he informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today.
Jefferson, indicted yesterday on 16 federal charges related to his alleged acceptance of bribes in exchange for helping to set up business deals in Africa, will leave the Small Business Committee, a Democratic leadership aide said.
Pelosi is hurrying to get the House ethics committee to open a formal investigation into Jefferson, whose legal troubles have provided fodder for Republicans accusing Democrats of reneging on campaign promises to clean up corruption in Congress and crack down on ethics violations.
Pelosi today planned to name ten Democrats to a special bipartisan reserve pool of House members who help conduct ethics investigations, further indication that a Jefferson probe is about to commence.House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, named ten GOP reservists on May 1.
Boehner, meanwhile, plans to introduce a resolution later today that would give the ethics committee until July 11 to decide whether to recommend that Jefferson be expelled, his aides said.
The House will vote on the resolution this evening.