Obama: Time for Rangel to go

The two Blue Dogs who have called for Charlie Rangel's resignation got a big boost today. A really big boost.

President Barack Obama gave ethics-embattled Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel a forceful shove towards the exit tonight, telling the 80-year-old dean of New York’s congressional delegation that the time has come to end his career “with dignity.” ...

After days of administration officials dodging questions about Rangel, Obama took on the issue with devastating bluntness in a interview with Harry Smith of the CBS “Early Show” – repeatedly referring to Rangel, who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, in the past tense.

“I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served-- his constituents very well but these-- allegations are very troubling,” th epresidrnt [sic] told Smith, in an interviewed aired Friday night on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

“And he'll-- he's somebody who's at the end of his career. Eighty years old. I'm sure that-- what he wants is to be able to-- end his career with dignity. And my hope is that-- it happens,” he added.

This comes across more as a call for Rangel to make a deal that includes retirement than for him to resign.

Sweet.

More Dems Abandon Rangel

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) made headlines as the first Democrat to call for the ethically challenged Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to resign. And she seems to have opened the floodgates.

Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID), my congressman, became the second Democrat to demand Rangel's resignation today. "I think it was appropriate for Rep. Rangel to step down from his post as a committee chair pending the investigation, but I always prefer to let voters decide whether or not someone should keep his or her seat. However, now that the investigation is complete, and provided the facts are as alleged, I think it’s clear that he should resign from Congress." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that it's Rangel's choice alone to make. As a party leader, Hoyer has to be a good diplomat and really can't call for a Member's resignation without a conviction, so this is about as damning a statement as he could make under the circumstances. And he made it.

It would obviouslly be helpful to the party if Rangel would step aside, and it would help his district too. Seniority usually helps a district, but once a member's lost his gavel and caucus credibility as Rangel has, there are no benefits to seniority left. If Rangel left now, a new member could begin to build up seniority of their own. His refusal to resign or at least retire is proof that he doesn't have the best interests of his constituents at heart.

That said, this is a legal matter, and legally, someone is innocent until proven guilty. Justice is justice and due process is due process, so I'm more inclined to agree with Hoyer than I am Minnick and Sutton. Rangel has the right to a committee trial if he wants it, even though it would yet again prove that he values himself over his party. I certainly want him to resign and I will be apalled if the Ethics Committee cuts him a deal, but I can't in good conscience declare that the process doesn't matter and that he MUST resign.

But here's hoping, and I'm certainly glad to see Minnick and Sutton stepping forward. The last two ethics investigations to get this far both ended with the accused's eviction, and Rangel said moments ago that he expects to get a trial rather than a plea bargain, so whether he resigns or not things do not look good for "the Chairman."

First Rangel, Now Stark: Levin Named New Chair of Ways & Means

The Chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee resigned his post today.

Oh, what's that? You say I must mean yesterday? Well, yes, the chairman did resign his post yesterday. But it happened again today. Two chairs in two days - and given who those two chairs were, that's not necessarily a bad thing. From The Hill:

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday.

The startling announcement comes a day after Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) appeared ready to take the reins of the committee from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War...

The shuffling of chairmen is sure to raise questions about how Pelosi handled the issue.

Yesterday I wrote that Stark was a lousy choice but that nonetheless, "anyone’s got to be better than Rangel, even if not by much." Still, better than Rangel or not, Stark does have major issues: he's attacked his "Jew" colleagues, claimed that a black Bush 1 administration was a "disgrace to his race" (Stark himself is white), and more. Levin will be a much better chair. His past does not include such scandals, and the National Journal ranks him as the 94th most progressive House member, compared to Stark's 140th.

It would have been better for us if Levin took over right away rather than going through Stark first, but either way, this does show that our caucus is dealing with its scandals and corruptions in a better way than the 2005-6 Republicans ever did, and that we're doing it well before the election or even Labor Day.

The bigger question is what this means for Nancy Pelosi's leadership. Her entire handling of the Rangel, and now general Ways & Means, scandal is her biggest political misstep since her extremely aggressive backing of Jack Murtha for House Majority Leader over Steny Hoyer. Political missteps won't hurt her much outside the Beltway, but they will strike a blow at her credibility within. Whether or not ramming the Senate health care bill through the House helps her image as someone who gets things done or takes her down a peg with bitter progressives remains to be seen. My own take is that she's Nancy Pelosi - she'll bounce back from anything, it's what she does - but this will make for an unpleasant few weeks.

I'll also be interested to see what effect having a Michigan Congressman in charge of the House's finance panel will have on future auto industry discussions. (And yes, he is related to Carl; they're brothers.)

Rangel "Temporarily" Resigns Ways & Means Chairmanship

Charlie Rangel has temporarily stepped aside as Chairman of House Ways and Means (the counterpart to Senate Finance). From CNN:

The 20-term New York Democrat told reporters he had submitted a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting a temporary leave of absence until a broad-reaching House ethics committee investigation concludes.

Rangel had told reporters Tuesday night he had no plans to step aside from his powerful post. The Ways and Means Committee is responsible for drafting the nation's tax policies.

Rangel is being investigated for, among other things, failing to pay taxes on a home in the Dominican Republic. He was formally admonished Friday by the House ethics committee for violating rules on receiving gifts. Specifically, the committee found that Rangel violated House gift rules by accepting reimbursement payments for travel to conferences in the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

Politico says , “With Rangel stepping aside, it's not clear who will take the chairmanship.” CNN says not so fast: "A source told CNN on Tuesday that if Rangel stepped aside, senior Ways and Means Democrat Pete Stark would take over as the committee's chairman 'on a temporary basis.'" First Read adds, "Eventually, it's probably going to be [Rep. Sandy] Levin, but Stark may get it temporarily if Rangel simply gives it up temporarily. But for the long term, Levin is the preferred choice among the Dem leadership. And even if Stark gets the gavel, his health problems may prevent him for truly running the committee, giving Levin de facto control."

This is allegedly a temporary “leave of absence,” but then again, Tom DeLay always planned on returning to his leadership post, too.

This is a wonderful turn of events. We don’t need the albatross of corruption around our party’s neck come November, and we don’t need it around our government’s neck, well, ever. Rangel, corrupt or not, is a buffoon who doesn’t grasp important policy details, doesn’t pay attention to ethics rules, and vehemently denies that a Congressman is responsible for his staff. We don’t need that in Congress.

It took an indictment to strip Bill Jefferson of his plum assignments. It’s good to see our party moving in the right direction on this – tougher action, and for no less than a close ally of the Speaker. That's not only tougher action than we've taken with other members in recent memory, it's also more than anything the Republicans can claim they did in 2006.

The new, “temporary” Chairman, Pete Stark, has a history of controversial and racially insensitive statements. He’s also no ethical peach himself, currently under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for his own tax issues. The National Journal says he is but the 140th most liberal member of Congress. Still, anyone’s got to be better than Rangel, even if not by much.

House Ethics Committee Faults Rangel

According to the House Ethics Committee, House Ways & Means Chairman Charlie Rangel may not have known that his foreign trips were illegally funded but his staffers did, and he is as responsible for their affairs as he is his own. At a press conference, however, Rangel disagreed, arguing that the buck does not stop with the boss, and that the boss is not responsible for his own office. Pretty head-slapping stuff. From The Hill:

In a hastily arranged press conference Thursday night, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) confirmed that the House ethics committee found that he violated House gift rules by accepting reimbursement for travel on 2007 and 2008 trips to the Caribbean.

He said the panel found that two of his staffers – one who was later fired – knew that corporate sponsors were underwriting the trip in violation of new House rules put in place after Democrats won the majority in 2006. The ethics committee, however, did not find any evidence that Rangel himself knew about the corporate sponsorships although the panel said he is responsible for his staffers’ actions.

Rangel said the committee’s findings served as a public admonishment of his actions and he was ordered to repay the costs of the trip.

“Common sense dictates that members of Congress shouldn’t be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or the error of their staff unless they think the member knew or should have known. And there is nothing in the record on that,” Rangel told reporters Thursday night. “I have to now deal with my lawyer to figure out what the hell they mean,” he added. “…That what a staff member does but a member doesn’t know it –- the member could be charged and admonished publicly for it?"

He may or may not be corrupt, but Rangel is a buffoon who doesn't pay close enough attention to details, and that gets him - and his party - in trouble. The man should have resigned from his chairmanship a long time ago; this is nothing but more proof of that.

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