- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Rep. William J. Jefferson yesterday spoke to two Democratic Capitol Hill groups in making his case to remain on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

The Louisiana Democrat, the subject of a bribery probe, repeated his long-standing claim of not being guilty to both the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

“I had a chance to explain my position in the matter,” he told reporters after leaving the steering committee meeting. Top Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, have called for Mr. Jefferson to leave the prestigious Ways and Means Committee.

Though Mr. Jefferson has not been charged with a crime, court documents say the lawmaker was videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe, and authorities found $90,000 cash in his freezer. Two other men already have been convicted in the probe.

He told the two Democratic groups again yesterday that he will not relinquish his post.

While the CBC supports him, the steering committee soon will decide whether to issue a symbolic “no confidence” vote against Mr. Jefferson and will decide whether to recommend that the full Democratic caucus make the same gesture. Only the full House can remove a member’s committee assignment in the middle of a session.

Mr. Jefferson said last night that he did not know which way the steering committee would vote.

“For me, the meeting has ended, and I’m going to go back to my office and continue my work, and that’s that,” he said.

In the past, he has rebuffed requests to resign his Ways and Means Committee membership by saying that his New Orleans district needed him on that influential panel to secure sufficient hurricane relief.

After meeting for several hours behind closed doors, members of the steering committee refused to comment last night on whether a vote had taken place, referring all questions to Mrs. Pelosi. The Democratic leader did not emerge from her office to make a statement, but a press aide said, “Nothing has been advised yet,” and declined further comment.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer on Tuesday repeated the calls from Mrs. Pelosi that Mr. Jefferson should step down or be removed from the powerful committee.

“If he doesn’t step down, I think our caucus needs to take action,” the Maryland Democrat said.

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