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Panel Now Must Decide Rangel’s Fate

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call

Now that a panel of Members has concluded that Rep. Charlie Rangel repeatedly violated the chamber’s rules, the House ethics committee must decide what punishment, if any, fits those transgressions.

But the ethics committee’s internal rules offer little insight on how the committee might select its penalties.

An adjudicatory subcommittee found Tuesday that the New York Democrat broke House rules, ruling against him on 11 of 13 charges leveled by an investigative panel earlier this year.

The full committee will meet Thursday to decide a punishment.

Under House rules, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct may select from a range of punishments for Members, the most significant of which are reprimand, censure and a motion for expulsion from the chamber.

“With respect to the sanctions that the Committee may recommend, reprimand is appropriate for serious violations, censure is appropriate for more serious violations, and expulsion of a Member or dismissal of an officer or employee is appropriate for the most serious violations,” the ethics committee’s rules state.

While conventional wisdom suggests Rangel is unlikely to be expelled from the chamber — the House has expelled only five Members in its history — the ethics committee could opt to recommend censure, reprimand or a lesser sanction.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the House has opted to censure Members 22 times for a variety of offenses including bribery, gift rule violations, misuse of campaign funds, payroll fraud and sexual misconduct with House pages.

Since the late 1970s, when, CRS notes, the House adopted the reprimand as a stand-alone punishment, the chamber has used the sanction against nine Members for violations including filing false financial disclosures and utilizing their offices for personal gain.

Rangel was found to have misused federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, used a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failed to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.

Both Democratic members of the investigative subcommittee that spent more than two years investigating Rangel indicated that before Monday’s abbreviated trial, discussions over Rangel’s punishment leaned toward the least of the three major penalties.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who chaired the subcommittee, revealed in July that the panel had recommended Rangel agree to be reprimanded over the allegations.

More recently, a dissenting opinion authored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) was released Monday by the ethics panel. He argued that the charges demand only a “letter of reproval.” Unlike the other punishments, which require a vote of the full House, the committee may issue a letter of reproval on its own.

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