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House Can Pick Rangel’s Penalty

A Process Exists to Dodge Censure

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Charlie Rangel spoke before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct earlier this month as the panel considered the penalty to recommend for his violation of House rules. The committee recommended censure.

Correction Appended

The House is expected to rebuke Rep. Charlie Rangel this week with its harshest punishment short of expulsion, but the New York Democrat could still receive a last-minute reprieve.

While the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct voted Nov. 18 to recommend censure — a public dressing-down on the House floor issued by the Speaker — as Rangel’s punishment for repeatedly violating the chamber’s rules, House lawmakers are allowed to issue a lesser punishment. The chamber could take up the ethics panel’s recommendation as early as today, although it is not expected to do so until Wednesday or later.

Democratic officials in Rangel’s district held a news conference earlier this month to encourage Members to support a reprimand of Rangel, which would still require a House vote but would not include a public lecture for the senior Democrat.

State Assemblyman Keith Wright, who attended the news conference, told Roll Call on Nov. 23 that he and other New York Democrats planned to reach out to Members over the Thanksgiving weekend, although he did not name specific lawmakers.

“Myself along with a cross section of the Congressional district simply don’t feel as if the punishment fits the infraction, because that’s essentially what we have here,” Wright said.

Wright noted that the House has traditionally resorted to censure when Members violate the rules for personal financial benefit. While the ethics panel did not make such a finding in Rangel’s case, the committee cited the “cumulative nature” of the Democrat’s actions. 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.

Neither House Democrats nor Rangel have appealed publicly for reprimand instead of censure, but Rangel did seek his colleagues’ sympathy last week in a statement apologizing for any embarrassment he has caused.

“The final decision on sanctions for violations of the House rules will be made by the full House of Representatives,” Rangel said in an e-mail issued by his campaign committee. “In the end, I hope that you would judge me on my entire record as a soldier and a dedicated public servant — not only by my mistakes.”

According to a source close to Rangel, the New York lawmaker is expected to make a direct plea to this House colleagues when the censure resolution is brought to the House floor.

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