Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Rangel Losing Support For His Chairmanship?

The NY Times is reporting that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been steadily losing support from the Democratic caucus over the admonishment by the House ethics panel investigating his malfeasance.

Mind you, the first findings found wrongdoing, but chose to take no action. That was an asinine decision on the panel's part, but with more findings likely to find wrongdoing, Rangel's charmed chairmanship isn't likely to withstand another onslaught by the GOP that is looking to vote him out of his chairmanship.
The ethics panel is still investigating more serious allegations 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 on Wednesday on whether Mr. Rangel should give up his chairmanship, support among his fellow Democrats appeared to be crumbling. Mr. Rangel 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 at about 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, flatly, “No.”

He said he was headed back to his office to work on jobs legislation, and when a reporter asked if he would still be the committee chairman on Wednesday, Mr. Rangel said, “Yes, and I don’t lie to the press.”
In so many ways, Rangel's situation mirrors that of Democrat David Paterson, who is obstinate in their refusal to see the writing on the wall and their apparent penchant to not follow the rules and the law. Rangel should have been gone long ago - back when the tax dodges, tax cheats, gaming the rent stabilization system in New York City, and other violations of the House ethics rules became known and the evidence overwhelming of Rangel's malfeasance.

Now, Rangel may end up losing his seat all for the Democrats to claim that they are getting tough on corruption right before the 2010 elections even as they looked the other way for the 2008 elections.

Politico is reporting that Rangel attended a meeting at Speaker Pelosi's office and the mood was anything but upbeat. Rangel appears to have held on to the chairmanship for at least the night, but beyond that - nothing is certain.
Democratic lawmakers and aides said Tuesday that the party’s most vulnerable incumbents are not willing to risk the electoral fallout that would come from standing by the 39-year House veteran. If all House members vote and all 178 Republicans favor removing Rangel, the GOP would need 39 Democrats to turn against the chairman to win the vote.

Plans for Rangel’s succession already were being discussed, with Democratic aides rating the chances of the five Democrats who are next in line in seniority: Pete Stark of California, Sander Levin of Michigan, Jim McDermott of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia and Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

As late as Monday, Rangel had seemed steady, with Democratic leaders insisting they would wait to see if the ethics committee took further action against him based on a series of other allegations of improper behavior.

But the tide turned quickly on Tuesday, as politically vulnerable Democratic lawmakers – and even some who sit in safe districts – called for him to step down, both publicly and privately.

“The dam broke today,” said a senior Democratic aide.

Rangel suffered a significant blow Tuesday afternoon when Rep. Artur Davis – a member of both the Ways and Means Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus who’s running for governor back home in Alabama – issued a statement in which he said the chairman “should do the right thing and step aside.”

Rumors of Rangel’s immediate removal coursed through the Capitol Tuesday evening after a Democratic leadership meeting but before Rangel gathered with Pelosi and their respective aides to discuss the situation in her office.

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