Just moments from now, a resolution to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee will be taken to the House floor by Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.).
At issue is Rangel's potential tax evasion associated with a rental property he owns in the Dominican Republic that was first reported by the New York Times on September 5, 2008.
The following day, the Times further revealed that Rangel was violating House ethics rules by paying no interest on the loan for this property thereby constituting a gift.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) at the time vowed a full ethics investigation; more than thirteen months later, Rangel is still chairman.
With this in mind, Carter will be offering the following resolution on the House floor at noon Wednesday:
WHEREAS, the gentleman from New York, Charles B. Rangel, the fourth most senior Member of the House of Representatives, serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a position of considerable power and influence within the House of Representatives; and,
WHEREAS, clause one of Rule XXXIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives provides, "A Member, Delegate, Resident Commission, officer, or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House; [...]
WHEREAS, on May 24, 2006, then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cited "high ethical standards" in a letter to Representative William Jefferson asking that he resign his seat on the Committee on Ways and Means in light of ongoing investigations into alleged financial impropriety by Representative Jefferson,
WHEREAS, by the conduct giving rise to this resolution, Representative Charles B. Rangel has dishonored himself and brought discredit to the House; and,
Therefore, be it RESOLVED,
upon adoption of this resolution and pending completion of the investigation into his affairs by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Representative Rangel is hereby removed as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means.
Carter first offered such a resolution in February, but it was blocked for consideration by House Democrats; this got very little press coverage at the time.
Now that eight additional months have passed, will media -- especially outlets like the Times that have called for Rangel to step down as chairman -- pay any more attention?
*****Update: The early indication is the answer is "Yes." News websites have been reporting the results of today's vote with a gusto. This from New York Times' Caucus blog:
House Democrats on Wednesday blocked a Republican effort to force Representative Charles B. Rangel from the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and instead referred the demand to the panel already investigating the New York Democrat.
As expected, the House voted 246 to 153 to essentially table the call for Mr. Rangel’s ouster by turning it over to the ethics committee. Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, had sought Mr. Rangel’s removal in a resolution that said national attention to a series of financial lapses by the chairman of the tax-writing committee has “held the House up to public ridicule.”
Associated Press: House Republicans failed Wednesday for a third time to oust Rep. Charles Rangel as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, but they kept the political spotlight on his ethical problems.
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart took a very strong position:
It’s unfortunate but hardly a shock that a Republican-led resolution to strip Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee until the conclusion of ethics investigations went nowhere. But at least it served to remind us of the list of horribles that got Rangel investigated in the first place. [...]
Rangel is a revered member of the Democratic Party and the dean of the New York congressional delegation. But that shouldn't give the chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee a pass on basic ethics laws and financial disclosure rules. If the ethics committee doesn't want to be viewed as condoning Rangel's seriously questionable actions it must move quickly to bring the matter to a close. Given the revelations and his recovered memory, if Rangel had any sense of duty, let alone honor, he'd give up the Ways and Means gavel on his own.
Before the vote was taken, NBC's Lisa Myers on the "Today" show did a pretty thorough analysis of what Capehart called "the list of horribles that got Rangel investigated in the first place."
This raises an obvious question: why all the attention on Rangel now?
Two possibilities come to mind: media are doing some catch-up given how little attention this matter has gotten of late, or Rangel and his problems might currently be viewed as an impediment to Obama getting healthcare reform passed.
Whatever the reason, it's nice to see this issue getting some well-overdue press.