Setting up an argument on Rove, the Democrats vote to toss Jefferson

House Democrats vote to strip Jefferson of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

Published June 16, 2006 2:01PM (EDT)

Democrats in the House of Representatives finally voted to remove William Jefferson from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee Thursday night. It was the right thing to do, but it was long overdue and -- when it came -- had a cover-your-ass feel to it.

Although Karl Rove apparently got good news from Patrick Fitzgerald this week, the Democrats would like to keep reminding George W. Bush about his promise that his administration would do "not only what is legal, but what is right." But it's hard to hold someone else to that standard when you won't live up to it yourself. Like Rove, Jefferson hasn't been charged with any crime. But also like Rove, Jefferson is pretty clearly guilty of doing wrong: Maybe we don't get out enough, but it's our understanding that most innocent men don't have $90,000 in FBI money wrapped up inside frozen food containers in their freezers back home.

The White House won't ever do anything about Rove, but the Democrats made their point by voting Jefferson out of his committee seat Thursday night. It's not a done deal yet; if Jefferson refuses to step down "voluntarily" now, the Democrats will have to get the full House to vote him out of his chair. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi clearly thinks she's free to take the high ground now. "This isn't about proof in the court of law. This is about an ethical standard," she says. "I wish that the White House would do the same."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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