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Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Jefferson appointment in doubt
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just one week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, encouraged her caucus to support the appointment of Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson to the House Homeland Security Committee and Democrats voted to give Jefferson a seat on the panel, his appointment is now up in the air.

Voting on committee appointments on the House floor is usually a perfunctory step -- something done by unanimous consent, rather than a roll call vote. But last week after Republican leaders said they intended to try to block Jefferson's appointment because they didn't think someone under FBI investigation should have access to classified intelligence, what should have been a routine next step, came to a screeching halt.

Democratic leaders Tuesday refused to say when the appointment will get an up or down vote.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, told CNN he just counts votes and that it's up to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, to make decisions on when votes come to the floor. But Hoyer told reporters it was up to House Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois, to move the ball forward.

Emanuel declined to answer whether or not the Jefferson appointment was in real trouble.

"This is what would be known officially as a punt," Emanuel said over his shoulder – with a slight chuckle -- as he walked away from a leadership press conference Tuesday.

Hoyer had earlier suggested to CNN that the reason for the uncertainty had to do with the fact some Democrats are uncomfortable going on the record in support of Jefferson who is under investigation by the FBI for alleged bribery charges. And even though Republicans readily admit they don't have the votes to block the appointment outright, by insisting on a roll call vote they hope to encourage more Democratic defections.

Last June then-Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, forced Jefferson to resign his post on the powerful tax writing Ways and Means Committee due to the allegations of impropriety swirling around him. The FBI investigation is continuing, but no charges have been brought against Jefferson who maintains he is innocent of all allegations leveled against him.

-- CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel
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