WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stripped embattled Rep. William Jefferson of his seat on a powerful tax committee last year, is expected to appoint him to the Homeland Security panel, infuriating some Republicans who charge he may be a security risk.
Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee amid a federal bribery probe, yet still won re-election to a ninth term.
Pelosi is giving him a seat on the panel after Jefferson was outspoken in his criticism of the homeland security agencies that responded to Hurricane Katrina.
That was not good enough for the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Peter King.
"It sends a terrible message," said King, R-N.Y. "They couldn't trust him to write tax policy, so why should he be given access to our nation's top secrets or making policy for national defense?"
"Members of the committee have access to intelligence secrets, plots here in the country, overseas, and people under suspicion. This shows how unimportant the Democrats think homeland security is," King said.
Aides to Jefferson confirmed the appointment but declined to comment on the criticism.
Representing New Orleans and some of its suburbs, Jefferson, 59, is the subject of a federal investigation into whether he accepted bribes related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. The FBI's evidence against him includes $90,000 found in his freezer -- fodder for late-night talk show jokes -- but not funny to Pelosi, who had promised to run the most ethical Congress in history.
Pelosi stripped Jefferson of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee over objections from some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Meanwhile, the FBI's raid of Jefferson's congressional office ran afoul of lawmakers; Pelosi and then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert succeeded in having the seized material sealed, where it remains pending the outcome of Jefferson's legal challenge.