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Ethics Committee Votes to Censure Rangel

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call

Updated: 6:34 p.m.

The House ethics committee voted Thursday to recommend a censure of Rep. Charlie Rangel after an adjudicatory panel ruled earlier this week that the New York Democrat has repeatedly violated the chamber’s rules. The full House must now vote to approve the punishment.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced its decision following nearly three hours of secret deliberations, adhering to the punishment proposed by the committee’s counsel at a public sanctions hearing Thursday. The panel also voted to require Rangel to pay an unspecified fine.

“After much deliberation, the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that Mr. Rangel be censured by the House and be required to pay restitution for any unpaid taxes,” ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said. Committee documents indicate Rangel owed as much as $17,000 in back taxes, of which he paid about $10,000 in 2008.

“We have worked hard together in this matter in a way that has actually been quite wrenching and we are satisfied to be concluded,” Lofgren added.

The ethics committee will now issue a report on its recommendation to the House, along with a resolution that must be adopted if the chamber opts to carry out the punishment. That measure would require a majority vote.

The House recessed Thursday afternoon for the Thanksgiving holiday and will not take up the recommendation until after it reconvenes Nov. 29.

According to the manual “House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House,” a censure resolution is administered by the Speaker to the Member, who stands in the well of the House as the measure is read aloud.

Should House lawmakers adopt the committee’s recommendation, Rangel would become the sixth lawmaker to be censured since the ethics panel was established in 1967. The ethics panel has recommended three other Members for censure in that period. House lawmakers also voted to censure two lawmakers despite the ethics committee’s proposal for reprimands in those cases.

The House could vote to reduce Rangel’s punishment to a reprimand, which would require only an adoption of the resolution by the House and would not require Rangel to be directly admonished on the chamber floor.

The House ethics panel has recommended reprimands against nine Members since 1967. The House has also employed its most severe penalty, expulsion from the chamber, five times in its history.

Blake Chisam, the ethics committee’s chief counsel who served as a prosecutor during Rangel’s adjudicatory hearing, suggested Thursday that the New York lawmaker’s punishment should fall “between” a reprimand and a censure.

But Chisam added that Rangel’s status at the helm of a powerful House committee compelled him to recommend the harsher penalty.

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