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Congressional Black Caucus members discussed the possibility that embattled former Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel might seek the ranking spot on the powerful tax-writing panel next year, according to three lawmakers in attendance at a closed-door meeting Monday night.
The New York Democrat, who is awaiting a verdict in his trial on 13 corruption-related ethics charges, declined to comment about whether he would seek the post as he was leaving Monday night’s CBC meeting. But three other lawmakers – Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) — said the issue was discussed.
Clarke said the Harlem lawmaker discussed the possibility of seeking the ranking spot on Ways and Means in the context of a broader discussion over what committee spots CBC members would seek in the next Congress but “didn’t go into detail.”
Clarke, who represents neighboring Brooklyn, said she “definitely” would support Rangel if he sought the spot. “It’s up to him,” Clarke said “I support him. I’m a Rangel fan.”
Jackson said he too would support Rangel if he were to run, saying Rangel “has earned that support” and that it was important for CBC members to stand up for the seniority system.
“He’s earned the support of this black caucus, he’s earned the support of the Caucus of this Congress, and he should not be abandoned,” Jackson said. “We start that trend, it could be very disruptive to the future of the caucus.”
Richardson confirmed that the discussion took place but declined to comment further.
There already is a competitive race brewing for the ranking spot on Ways and Means. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) has chaired the panel since Rangel was forced to relinquish the gavel this year amid his ethics problems, and Levin has indicated he is interested in staying on in the ranking post next year when Democrats are in the minority. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) also said this month that he would seek the post if Rangel does not.
A House ethics subcommittee opted Monday to abbreviate Rangel’s ethics trial, declaring that no facts are in dispute, thereby dispensing with witnesses and public arguments. The subcommittee will now move directly to deliberations on whether the New York lawmaker violated the chamber’s rules.
An ethics investigative subcommittee charged Rangel in July with 13 counts of wrongdoing, including allegations that he 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 Dominican Republic villa and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.
Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this story.