Congressional Democrats have blocked a GOP sponsored resolution calling for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) to surrender his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Instead, the Democratically controlled House voted to refer the question to the ethics committee.
The resolution was introduced by Texas Republican John Carter and was never expected to pass in the Democratically controlled Congress. But, it signals a new era in a GOP campaign against the veteran lawmaker because of questions over his financial dealings.
Rangel is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee, which helps write the nation's tax codes.
"The New York Democrat may write those laws, but it appears he feels no obligation to obey them, Carter said. "He has such a poor grasp of his own finances that he neglects to list half of his assets on a disclosure form intended to keep the members of Congress accountable and honest."
For his part, Rangel said he wasn't surprised by the motion.
"I think its unfair, but I expected it," Rangel said as he was walking into a meeting at the Capitol today.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says the ethics investigation into Rangel should be complete before any action is taken.
"The committee is doing its work. It is ongoing," Hoyer said in an interview. "It is thoroughly taking under consideration the matter that the chairman asked them to take under consideration. And we will await their report ... Prior to that, any actions with reference to Chairman Rangel would be premature."
Rangel has been dogged by ethics and tax questions -- from his allegedly illicit use of a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office to his apparent underreporting of taxes and assets, including a house in the Dominican Republic -- that have only become more persistent the harder he's tried to swat them away.
Rangel, a staple on Capitol Hill since 1971 and the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, likely won't be bucked by the resolution in the Democrat-controlled Congress. But the GOP's effort underscores the party's intention to make Rangel a problem for the Democrats in the 2010 Midterm elections, reports The Washington Post.
After all, Rangel did make the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's most corrupt list -- for the second year in a row. And if the GOP can convince voters that supporting Rangel is akin to endorsing congressional corruption, it wouldn't be good for the Dems, especially if other candidates were pressured to return campaign funds donated by the embattled congressman, reports the Washington Post.
Rangel hasn't spoken publicly on the allegations against him. His rep has been quick to point out that last year, it was Rangel himself who asked the House Ethics Committee to look into whether his use of the rent-controlled apartments defied ethics rules. The committee has since expanded its investigation into other allegations of misconduct.
Despite the controversy, Rangel has been an integral part of helping the Democrats redefine their version of healthcare legislation. And Democratic party leaders have more or less supported him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, hasn't commented on the allegations other than to defer to the investigation process and say Rangel should maintain his position for the moment, reports the Washington Post.
"If there is a vote, he will have the full support of the caucus," said Rep. John Lewis, another longtime Capitol Hill and Congressional Black Caucus member who also sits with Rangel on Ways and Means. "There's not any discussion of him stepping down."
Reporters went after Rangel Monday as he approached the podium to speak at a news conference announcing the new subway entrance at 96th and Broadway. But the 79-year-old Democrat hung his head and just kept walking, reports The Washington Post.
Once at the podium, Rangel thanked everyone for coming out on "this beautiful day."
"And I would hate to see anyone attempt to mar this with questions that are not related to this exciting event," the congressman added.
Everyone complied with Rangel's request, of course, except for some random guy driving by the news conference in his car.
"Charlie, pay your taxes! Come on, Charlie, pay your taxes!" the passerby shouted.