House Lawmakers Stop GOP Plan to Strip Rangel of Gavel

Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:40pm

As expected, House lawmakers Tuesday curbed a Republican-led effort to strip Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) of his gavel pending the outcome of an investigation into his personal finances.

Republican Rep. John Carter (Texas), who has criticized Rangel for his admitted failure to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic vacation property, invoked a privileged motion last week to force the issue to the House floor.

But the House voted largely along party lines to table the measure Tuesday, circumventing a direct vote on Rangel’s chairmanship.

Earlier in the day, Carter acknowledged his efforts were unlikely to succeed, but he suggested the motion is necessary to “build a fire” under the ethics committee, which has been investigating Rangel for several months.

“The whole point is to put sunlight on the issue,” Carter said. “It worries me that the public … perceives us in such a negative light.”

He continued: “It’s time for us to step up and say, if it isn’t right, it isn’t right.”

Carter added that he does not have a vendetta against the senior Democrat: “I have no ill will against Mr. Rangel whatsoever.”

The House ethics panel established an investigative subcommittee in the 110th Congress to examine multiple accusations involving Rangel that had been revealed in media reports, including his fundraising efforts on behalf of a City College of New York center named in his honor. It later expanded that inquiry to include an alleged quid pro quo of legislation in exchange for donations to the college.

In addition, the inquiry included Rangel’s ownership of a villa in the Dominican Republic and his failure to report rental income on that property, which led to unpaid taxes; Rangel’s use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage; and Rangel’s use of three rent-controlled apartments as his primary residence.

Rangel has denied any wrongdoing related to his fundraising efforts, but he has acknowledged the unpaid taxes.

The investigative subcommittee’s authority expired at the end of the last Congress, but the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is expected to renew the inquiry when it organizes for the 111th Congress this week.

“I expect them to proceed vigorously and thoroughly on certainly the Rangel case, which he asked them to do,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday. “And frankly, my expectation is, and I have said this for the last six years, that I expect the ethics committee to take under consideration any allegation that certainly is public and, for that matter, any allegation that is privately made that bears substance.”