Rangel’s Speech Rains on Democrats’ Parade

Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:02pm

House Democrats thought they had an easy messaging day set up: They were going to save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers and nurses with a $26 billion spending bill, and Republicans wanted them fired. And then Rep. Charlie Rangel took the floor.

The New York Democrat’s rambling point of personal privilege ran 35 minutes, with the bulk of the House sitting in rapt attention. By the end, several Democrats lamented that Rangel’s unexpected speech was overshadowing their jobs message.

“I wish he would have waited,” Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) said. “Here we are trying to focus on putting 300,000 people back to work.”

“It’s unfortunate that on a day when Democrats are trying to focus on saving tens of thousands of teachers, the focus is going to be on the last hour,” Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) said.

Across the aisle, Rep. Pete Hoekstra called the speech “amazing” and “incoherent” and said he hadn’t seen anything quite like it on the House floor before.

“I don’t think that was part of their message plan for August,” the Michigan Republican quipped.

However, Members from both parties said Rangel had the right to ask for a speedy resolution to the charges against him and has a right to be heard.

“He’s a guy who took a bullet for us in Korea,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said. “Let’s get on with this, it’s been two years now.”

“I think Mr. Rangel is asking for due process, and we believe in due process,” Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) said.

Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) described Rangel’s speech as “very thought-provoking.”

“He makes a point. … We need to come up with a very judicious procedure that will get to the bottom of this fast so it won’t drag on and become a boondoggle for a lot of folks.”

Bright said he wanted to work with leadership to expedite these and other ethics cases and added that he was not concerned about political fallout.

“People in my district really don’t know who Charlie Rangel is,” he said.

“Most of the speech I wasn’t sure what he was getting at,” Rep. John Carter said. “The point that he made that he wanted an expedited hearing I agree with.” The Texas Republican said the dragging out of the investigation and the hearing isn’t good for the institution.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who chaired the subcommittee that investigated Rangel, declined to comment on Rangel’s criticism of the process. “I won’t respond to that,” he said, noting that the case is now in the adjudicatory subcommittee’s hands.

“The smile on my face is because I don’t have to.”

Kate Hunter contributed to this report.