Re:Rep. Jefferson--Speaking Out Against a Double Standard

Last evening, I was given the opportunity to address the Democratic Caucus on the matter involving Congressman William Jefferson. In my remarks, I stressed my strongly held belief that the Caucus should adhere to the inscription on the Supreme Court - our nation’s highest Court – "Equal Justice Under Law." I enumerated the instances where members of Congress had been investigated and in some cases, indicted, yet suffered no loss of Committee assignments. One former member was involved in a murder investigation – yet there was no move to deny him his right to sit on a Committee. The last time the Democratic Caucus stripped one of its members of Committee power was in 1967, in the case of another African American, Adam Clayton Powell, who was then excluded from the full House. The Supreme Court later ruled, in 1969, that the House had acted unconstitutionally and he was reinstated. If the criminal investigation underway results in the indictment of Congressman Jefferson, so be it. He will then have the right to defend himself in a court of law. That’s the American way. I believe that last night’s vote was a serious mistake that created a double standard and allows arbitrary, rather than equal, justice. I appreciate my colleagues who stood up for fairness and equality, especially my New Jersey colleague Steve Rothman, who took a principled stand in attempting to establish clear rules which would apply to all members when these cases are considered.