House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday asked Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) the embattled chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to relinquish his gavel until the ethics panel completes its investigation into irregularities in Rangels personal finances.
Boehners request comes a week after reports that Rangel failed to disclose $600,000 in assets as well as tens of thousands of dollars in income on his 2007 financial disclosures.
In a letter to Rangel, Boehner said although he considered Rangel a friend, he felt it was necessary for the chairman to step aside as a sign of respect to the institution while the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct investigation is in progress.
As chairman of the powerful House committee, entrusted with the responsibility of writing the tax laws that affect every law-abiding American citizen, you, along with the Speaker and other leaders of the majority party, have an obligation to help set the pace when it comes to standards of official conduct, Boehner wrote. By relinquishing the gavel voluntarily while the Ethics panel does its work, you would demonstrate your respect for this obligation.
A spokesman for Rangel said Republican attempts to remove Rangel from his post are ill-timed, saying the ethics committee should be allowed to finish its investigation.
Congress has a comprehensive, bipartisan process for reviewing any allegations made against a Member the House ethics committee. Chairman Rangel himself initiated the request for the committee to review the allegations made against him, the spokesman said. Any action by the Minority Leader or others to prejudge the outcome of that bipartisan process would unfairly undermine the work of the ethics committee.
The ethics committee is investigating four specific allegations against Rangel, including his lease of multiple rent-controlled apartments in Harlem, N.Y., his use of a House parking spot for long-term vehicle storage, and his failure to report or pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.
Rangel has since paid back taxes on that income.
Rangel has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and requested the ethics committee probe into his finances.
On Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on Rangel to release his tax returns and said he should be removed from his post if he refused to comply.
This is not the first time Republicans have called on Rangel to step down as chairman. In February, the House voted down a Republican-backed resolution that would have stripped Rangel of his gavel until the ethics committee finished the probe.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.