Ed Ou/AP
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y.

Members of Congress Call for Rangel’s Resignation from Influential Position

September 30, 2008 01:30 PM
by Anne Szustek
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is facing calls from within his own party to step down in light of corruption charges. Others think his leadership history should take precedence.

Democrats Weigh Rangel’s Leadership Versus Image

On Sunday’s edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said that Rangel should step down from his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, the House group that oversees taxation and policy on several social spending programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

Rangel has faced three ethics reviews for failing to report $75,000 in rental income from his Dominican Republic beach condo, as well as for alleged misuse of rent-stabilized Manhattan apartments, one of which he apparently used as headquarters for his campaign. Another ethics review revolved around a charge that the congressman used official government stationery to ask for donations for an educational center at City University of New York that would be named for Rangel.

But one of Udall’s “Meet the Press” comments, cited by wire service United Press International, shows the conflict that Udall shares with other members of the Democratic Party with regard to Rangel. “I think it would be helpful if Charles Rangel steps down,” Udall said. “But he's served the country well. We need his expertise, and I know, whatever happens ... he will do right by the country.”

House Republicans have run away with Rangel’s missteps during this election year, with the hopes of, as Politico puts it, styling him as a Democratic version of Tom DeLay, the former Texas Republican Congressman who stepped down as House majority leader in light of campaign finance scandals. House Minority Whip John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for one, has called for Rangel to step down from his chairmanship as investigations continue.

And some Democrats have thought that singling out Rangel could open the door to targeting embattled congressional Republicans, such as Alaska’s Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens.

Background: Rangel: Caught in the middle

On Sept. 15, Rangel met with other House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., officially to discuss what to do about ailing financial markets. Many thought that the meeting was to determine Rangel’s fate, however.

Pelosi has, at least publicly, remained resolute in her support for Rangel—key during this election cycle. And, at least currently, Rangel has not been formally charged with wrongdoing and has remained unscathed by the House Ethics Committee. Plus any GOP finger-pointing is quickly quelled by references to Alaska’s Young or California Congressman Jerry Lewis, who both have had legal woes.

As has Stevens for the Republicans, Rangel has been a key fundraiser for the Democrats. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Penn., pressed ahead with a Washington fundraiser with Rangel as the keynote speaker. Ed Mitchell, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania congressman’s campaign, told The New York Times, “Charlie Rangel is a distinguished member of Congress who has done much for this country.”

His challenger, Lou Barletta, received campaign money from Stevens at one point. “When they return the money they received from Senator Stevens…we’ll think about canceling the Rangel fund-raiser,” Mitchell continued in the Times.

Key Player: Charles Rangel (1930–)

A native of New York’s Harlem neighborhood, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., was born on June 11, 1930 during the Great Depression. He dropped out of high school and went to serve in the Army during the Korean War. He sustained major wounds from battle, and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service. He returned to earn a bachelor’s from New York University and a juris doctorate from St. John’s University. N.Y. State Attorney General Robert Kennedy named Rangel assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1961.

Rangel’s career as an elected official got underway in 1966 when he was elected to the N.Y. State Assembly. In 1971 he ran successfully against Congressional incumbent Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, beginning his 19-term career in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rangel’s notable accomplishments during his tenure in Congress include a 1987 tax code eliminating tax credits for companies doing business in apartheid-era South Africa and the creation of the Office of Minority Affairs, a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was also a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon.

Related Topics: Sen. Ted Stevens’s trial; other embattled members of Congress

Sen. Ted Stevens, a longtime Republican member of Congress representing Alaska, has been indicted in connection with corruption charges in relation with failing to report more than $250,000 in “gifts and benefits” from friends and “favor seekers.”

Trial proceedings against Stevens began Sept. 22. Court hearings are expected to last one month, but his name is set to remain on the ballot for this year’s election. If Stevens gets re-elected, the Senate could oust him with a two-thirds vote. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would then have to call a special election to find his successor.

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