The Jefferson Investigation: What Separation of Powers?

All of the congressmen, media and analysts so upset over the breach of the "separation of powers" love to quote the "speach and debate" clause of the constitution to back up their claims that the Bush Administration was out of line for sending the FBI — with a warrant — to search the Capitol Hill office of Louisiana Democrat Rep. William Jefferson.

But what does the Constitution actually say about "immunity" or "privilege from arrest" or "speech and debate"? Here’s the relevant portion from Article I, Section 6, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution (emphasis added):

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privilegd from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

As a few of us were discussing this issue around the office, someone suggested that the media ought to ask outraged congressmen to quote the portion of the Constitution that would actually protect Jefferson from a bribery (or any other felony) investigation.


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