Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rangel Temporarily Steps Aside As Chair of House Ways and Means Committee

photo via the NY PostAfter blustering that he would not stand aside as late as yesterday, this morning Democrat Charles Rangel has stepped aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“I have, this morning, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work,” the congressman said in a brief meeting with reporters.

He declined to answer questions in any detail, however, saying that to do so would raise issues that “would distract me from what I have to do in terms of completion of the president’s health bill as well as making sure our committee gets a good jobs bill.”

Republicans had been pressing for a vote to remove him from his chairmanship. Mr. Rangel said he acted in order to avoid forcing his colleagues to defend him during an election year.

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 was 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.”
Democrat Pete Stark will assume the chairmanship for the interim as the continuing investigations into Rangel's malfeasance continues. It's not yet clear how this will affect the passage of key tax and appropriations legislation, but I suspect that things will continue as before.

Maybe now his Harlem constituents will see the light and send him packing from Congress this November, but I doubt it. They're too wedded to the idea of seeing Rangel in office to consider the alternatives.

The classic photo of Rangel sprawled on a lounge chair on the beach down in the Caribbean is added. Here's to hoping that he gets more time to contemplate his downfall - preferable from behind the bars of Club Fed.

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