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GOP to object to Homeland panel appointment

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NEW: House Republican leader calls decision "baffling and troubling"
• GOP to file formal objection to choice of William Jefferson for panel
• Speaker Nancy Pelosi says panel is "appropriate place" for Jefferson
• Jefferson was investigated, not charged, in FBI bribery probe in May
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republicans plan a formal objection on the House floor to the appointment of Rep. William Jefferson to the Homeland Security Committee.

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt announced the move Wednesday, a day after the House Democratic caucus approved Speaker Nancy Pelosi's appointment of Jefferson to the panel.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called Jefferson's appointment "baffling and troubling," in a statement.

The move came eight months after the Louisiana lawmaker was ousted from the House Ways and Means Committee after federal prosecutors alleged he had taken $90,000 in cash in a bribery sting and stashed it in his freezer.

Though committee assignments are usually passed unanimously on the floor without votes being recorded, Blunt, R-Missouri, said he will object and ask for a recorded vote.

He criticized Pelosi -- who took office last month after declaring that she would "drain the swamp that is Washington" by improving the ethics process -- for making the appointment.

"I think our side will generally think that this is not only not a good idea but totally inconsistent with the major point that the speaker made when she wanted to be the speaker -- that this would not be allowed, that there were penalties on their side," Blunt said. "And the idea that Homeland Security is somehow less important than the tax-writing committee I think is a ludicrous idea."

In an interview Tuesday with CNN's "Larry King Live," Pelosi defended Jefferson's appointment, saying that while the Ways and Means Committee "had something to do with the accusations made against him," his new post does not.

Pelosi also said the Homeland Security panel "is an appropriate place for him to be," given its jurisdiction over matters related to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Jefferson's New Orleans-area district.

In June, Pelosi moved to strip Jefferson of his assignment on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee after federal prosecutors revealed $90,000 in cash had been found in the congressman's freezer. They alleged he had accepted the cash from an FBI informant as part of a bribery investigation. (Read the full story)

The allegations against Jefferson, which came in the heat of the midterm election campaign, presented a dilemma for Democrats, who were castigating House Republicans for tolerating what they termed a culture of corruption.

Jefferson has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. In December, he won a ninth term in office after a hard-fought runoff election.

The ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King of New York, said Pelosi's selection of Jefferson sent "a terrible message."

Louisiana lawmaker William Jefferson will be on the Homeland Security Committee despite being investigated for bribery eight months ago.



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