Rangel Ways and Means Chairmanship Over

Charlie Rangel Out as Ways and Means ChairCharlie Rangel is apparently on his way out as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a story that’s got the blogosphere buzzing but only merits A22 treatment in the New York Times, his hometown paper.

Caught in a swirl of ethics inquiries, Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, appeared to be losing his grip on his powerful post as chairman of the tax-policy-writing Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday as Republicans planned to force a vote to remove him from his position.

The House ethics committee last week admonished Mr. Rangel, an ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for violating Congressional gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

The ethics panel is still investigating more serious accusations regarding Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.

And with Republicans preparing to force a vote Wednesday seeking to oust Mr. Rangel from his chairmanship, support among his fellow Democrats appeared to be crumbling. He huddled in a meeting with senior party leaders, including Ms. Pelosi, and officials said Democrats were urging him to step down, at least temporarily.

As he left his crisis meeting with party leaders around 8 p.m., Mr. Rangel insisted that he was not stepping down. Asked if he was going to remain as chairman, he said, “You bet your life.”

Pushed on whether he would step aside temporarily, he replied, “No.”

There are conflicting reports on what’s happening. MSNBC reports that Rangel will take a “leave of absence” while the investigation proceeds. A bizarre report in The Hill, though, casts some doubt.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday night told The Hill that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is still chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. After huddling with Rangel for 45 minutes, Pelosi initially said, “No comment” when asked if Rangel remains panel chairman. She later added, “I guess he is still chair of Ways and Means…”

Pelosi spoke to The Hill after Rangel denied reports he would leave his perch at the top of one of the House’s most powerful committees.

As he emerged from the meeting, Rangel was asked whether he is still chairman. His response: “You bet your sweet life!”  He then said Pelosi told him not to say “a damn thing” about the meeting.

When asked whether he would be chairman tomorrow or the next day, Rangel demurred.  “I’m 79 years old,” he said. “At that age, you can’t be sure about anything.”

Indeed not.   But Politico, too, is reporting that Rangel’s hours as chairman are numbered.

Republicans are ready to a force a floor vote on whether he should be stripped of his chairmanship, and that’s a lose-lose proposition for Rangel. For him to win that kind of vote, some Democrats in tough swing districts — including those in his home state of New York — would have to put themselves in further electoral jeopardy by backing him up.

Last week’s ethics committee judgment that Rangel violated House gift rules by accepting travel to the Caribbean appeared to be the last straw for many of his rank-and-file colleagues. Even as House Democratic leaders said over the weekend that they would await the outcome of the committee’s work on several other allegations against Rangel, so-called Frontline Democrats — those the party has identified as most vulnerable to defeat in November — began making their decisions to dump Rangel.

If all House members vote and all 178 Republicans favor removing Rangel, the GOP would need 39 Democrats to help oust him.

The public list of Democratic defectors was still less than half that Tuesday night, but Democratic lawmakers and aides said the ranks were swelling quickly behind closed doors.

The group that has publicly abandoned Rangel includes not just members who are in danger of losing their seats but also at least three — Artur Davis who is running for governor of Alabama and Reps. Brad Ellsworth and Paul Hodes, who are seeking Senate seats in Indiana and New Hampshire, respectively.

Those camps could easily be joined by “good government” liberals who are uncomfortable not only with the first judgment against Rangel but also the scope and nature of the allegations against him: that he failed to pay taxes on a Dominican rental property, that he improperly solicited funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, that he broke New York City rules by maintaining multiple rent-regulated apartments and that he omitted hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets from financial disclosure forms that lawmakers are required to file with the House.

Rangel has been around longer than I can remember and, while I seldom agree with him politically, I’ve generally found him to be a likable and decent fellow.  I haven’t paid much attention to the current investigation, frankly, but the damning report from the Ethics Committee doesn’t look good.   Rangel should do the right thing and step aside.  If he won’t, though, his colleagues have no choice but to remove him.

UPDATE: Rangel has done the right thing:

Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, facing an investigation by the House ethics committee, says he has decided to temporarily step down from his post as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel made the announcement to reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, saying he would not answer any questions. He said, “I hope you don’t mind. I don’t take questions.”

Since when?! The man’s on the talking heads shows more than anybody except John McCain.

He said that “from the very, very beginning, I had offered” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to step down from the post.

Uh . . .

He said he leaving “to avoid my colleagues having to defend me” during the campaign season.

Which, again, is the only honorable course of action.  Granted, they’d have had to vote to oust him.   But that would have been an awkward position to put them in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. UlyssesUnbound says:

    About damn time…

  2. Pete says:

    Oh the horror! Another fine public servant corrupted by the honor and respect so deserving of those who choose to serve their nation.

  3. Ugh says:

    but only merits A22 treatment in the New York Times,

    I imagine it wasn’t official by the time they went to press and, as you note, it wasn’t clear exactly what was going on. It’s the top story on the NYTimes website right now, as Rangel made it official.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I imagine it wasn’t official by the time they went to press and, as you note, it wasn’t clear exactly what was going on. It’s the top story on the NYTimes website right now, as Rangel made it official.

    Fair enough. But, still, the reporting that the other big papers were doing made it clear that this was a huge story. Rangel is not only a key national figure but actually represents NYC in Congress.

  5. Cialis says:

    Yk2Hwx Thank you for the material. Do you mind if I posted it in her blog, of course, with reference to your site?

  6. markm says:

    …so with him stepping away from the committee, the most ethical and transparent Congress evah really hasn’t gotten more ethical has it….

  7. markm says:

    Congress evah really hasn’t gotten more ethical has it

    ..wellll….thanks to the leadership:
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/33864.html

  8. anjin-san says:

    This guy needs to retire.

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