Democrats Regret Giving Rangel The Floor

Dana Milbank notes this morning that House Democrats realize they made a mistake yesterday:

The Democrats, at long last, had strung together a good day. They forced House Republicans to return, grumbling, from summer vacation for votes that allowed Democrats to show support for teachers, cops and strong borders.

Then they got Rangeled.

“For what purpose does the gentleman from New York seek recognition?” the speaker asked of Rep. Charlie Rangel, the fallen Ways and Means chairman, when he rose from his seat early Tuesday afternoon.

The gentleman from New York sought recognition to deliver, without warning, one of the most extraordinary pieces of political oratory in recent memory. Facing a trial before the House Ethics Committee, he gave a rambling, 30-minute speech attacking the committee, the Republicans, his fellow Democrats and even his own lawyers. It was less of a floor speech than a primal scream directed at those who say he should resign, or cut a deal with the committee, to spare his party a political debacle in November.


Midway through the diatribe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left her seat and walked to the back of the chamber. When Rangel finally finished, a few dozen Democrats — mostly members of the black caucus, New Yorkers and liberals — stood to applaud. Most Democrats — including Rep. David Obey (Minn.), the man who was leading the teachers-and-cops bill on the floor — sat in silence. Democratic members, approached by reporters for comment as they left the chamber, looked stricken.

“Not now,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter.

“I didn’t really hear it,” pleaded Rep. Howard Berman.

“What speech?” asked Rep. Steve Cohen.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz merely rolled her eyes and shook her head.

They had reason to feel ill. Rangel had trampled all over their plan to make the day about teachers and cops. In a larger sense, his determination to answer charges before November is guaranteed to crowd out any message the Democrats were hoping to deliver before voters punish them in the midterm elections

In addition to causing them to lose the news cycle yesterday — does anyone really remember what that bill they passed is all about anyway ? — Rangel’s speech is likely to replay itself in the form of soundbites and campaign ads throughout the election cycle. It’s unclear if Rangel’s speech will have any impact on his own political fortunes, but it was bad news for Democrats. And they know it.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Justin Bowen says:

    In addition to causing them to lose the news cycle yesterday — does anyone really remember what that bill they passed is all about anyway ?

    Has anybody bothered to actually take a look at what was in that bill?  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I find it hard to believe that Rangel distracted everyone from a bill that was supposedly important enough to have Congress recalled without actually intending (and without being told to do so by someone more powerful) to distract everyone from a bill that was supposedly important enough to have Congress recalled (anybody remember the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004? (a bill that basically turned virtually every place that you might ever spend money at into legal-defined financial institution – giving the federal government vast new powers – that was conveniently signed into law on the day that the news broke that Saddam Hussein was captured)).  Perhaps instead of focusing on the unimportant soap opera that is Rangel’s situation, perhaps people should take a peek at that new bill to see if there’s anything nefarious in it…


  2. giantslor says:

    I watched part of the speech and I thought it was great. Very eloquent. It wasn’t just about him. It was about how any one of his colleagues can be smeared as “corrupt” and railroaded out of office because of a few ethics violations. A few ethics violations in a long and distinguished career does not make someone corrupt. Corruption would require a long pattern of ethics violations. It seems to me that the optics on Rangel are bad, so they’re trying to get rid of him just like they unfairly got rid of Shirley Sherrod. Rangel is saying this tendency is wrong and must be fought. He’s right.