Using whip cards produced by the office of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), black caucus members recorded the opinions of Democratic lawmakers on the question of whether they would support a lesser punishment of reprimand rather than the censure recommended by the ethics committee last month.
Kristie Greco, a spokeswoman for Clyburn, said his leadership office is not counting votes for Rangel — though the telltale hallmark of the whip's office adorned the member checklists carried by Rangel backers.
"The CBC is whipping this issue," Greco said.
Ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is expected to bring a resolution to the House floor Thursday afternoon calling on the House to censure Rangel, who has represented a Harlem, N.Y.-based district for 40 years.
Any lawmaker could raise a counterproposal calling on the committee to change its recommended punishment to a lesser or greater sanction — or even simply to change the language of the resolution. In addition, the Republican leader has the right to try to amend the resolution with a "motion to recommit" before a final vote.
As the CBC worked furiously to ease the punishment of one of its founding members, other lawmakers struck a somber tone about the matter in front of them.
"No one likes to see this happen," Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said of the censure. "But we have said that we want to see the process work it's way through."
Cantor called the ethics violations and the censure resolution "a sad thing for Mr. Rangel, a sad thing for everybody. I am sure this is not the way he wanted to see his career go."
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a fellow New York Democrat, said he hadn't made up his mind yet on how to vote.
"He did something wrong," Weiner said, arguing that there should be some punishment for Rangel. But he also said "the precedents don't support censure."