Charles Rangel
Harry Hamburg  /  AP
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., leaves the House ethics committee room on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.
updated 11/18/2010 10:07:02 PM ET 2010-11-19T03:07:02

One of Congress' most likable veterans, Rep. Charles Rangel, would become the 23rd House member in the nation's history to be censured if the House goes along with a recommendation of its ethics committee.

After Thanksgiving, House members will take up the solemn task of disciplining one of their own when the New York Democrat is reproached for financial and fundraising misconduct.

It will be one of the more unpleasant jobs in the waning days of the 111th Congress because the congressman from Harlem is legendary for his friendliness and greetings to anyone he passes on the grounds of the Capitol.

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The normally self-confident, 80-year-old Rangel, newly re-elected with 40 years of House service behind him, was reduced to pleading with the ethics committee Thursday to refrain from calling him corrupt.

It didn't.

"Although prior committee precedent for recommendation of censure involved many cases of direct financial gain, this committee's recommendation of censure is based on the cumulative nature of the violations and not any direct personal financial gain," the committee said in a report.

Image: Rep. Charles Rangel
Shawn Thew  /  EPA
Rep. Charles Rangel waits for his hearing before the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The ethics committee deliberated about three hours before voting 9-1 to recommend a censure, plus a requirement that Rangel pay taxes he owes on income from a vacation villa in the Dominican Republic.

If the House agrees to a censure resolution, Rangel would stand before his colleagues at the front of the chamber — known as the well — where the resolution of censure would be read by the speaker of the House.

The House has the option of changing the punishment to a reprimand, which eliminates an oral rebuke at the well.

Rangel was convicted in an ethics trial this week by a panel of lawmakers on 11 counts of ethical wrongdoing, including his use of House letterheads and staff to solicit money for a college center named after him. A number of the donors had business before the House Ways and Means Committee while Rangel served as chairman.

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Rangel also filed a decade's worth of misleading financial statements understating his assets and converted a subsidized New York apartment — designated for residential use — into a campaign office. Other tenants who violated their lease got evicted.

The tax issue was a sore point for several members of the ethics committee, who said it was especially egregious that a former chairman of the House's tax-writing committee failed for 17 years to pay taxes on the income from his island villa.

It's unclear how much Rangel owes in taxes. An ethics committee document indicated he owed $16,775 as of 1990, but Rangel has paid some of his back taxes.

The Rangel case won't end the ethics committee's business. On Nov. 29, the panel of five Democrats and five Republicans will hold an ethics trial for Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Waters is vigorously fighting charges that she improperly attempted to get federal financial aid for a bank where her husband is an investor.

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Video: Rangel has his say

  1. Transcript of: Rangel has his say

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to Capitol Hill , and a harsh punishment announced earlier this evening for a longtime, high-profile congressman, the once powerful Democrat from Harlem Charlie Rangel . The Ethics Committee has voted to censure him for breaking House rules . But earlier in this day, before the panel made that decision, Rangel made a last-ditch, an emotional effort to defend his reputation. Our own Kelly O'Donnell on the Hill for us tonight. Hey, Kelly , good evening.

    KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: Good evening, Brian . We saw a different Charlie Rangel today. Monday, he walked out of his trial, had no lawyer. Today, he was back with a friend and legend of the civil rights movement by his side. Looking drained and diminished, once a tower of political influence, today Charles Rangel faced scorn from colleagues.

    Representative JO BONNER (Republican, Alabama): Mr. Rangel should only look in the mirror if he wants to know who to blame.

    O'DONNELL: Found guilty of 11 House ethics violations involving taxes and fundraising.

    Representative MICHAEL McCAUL (Republican, Texas): The failure to pay taxes for 17 years, what is that?

    O'DONNELL: Rangel 's fall is steep. Forty years in Congress , a decorated Korean war hero who marched for civil rights . Today an icon of that struggle, John Lewis , called Rangel a good man.

    Representative JOHN LEWIS (Democrat, Georgia): He came to Selma and he walked with many of us, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    O'DONNELL: The pain of this moment and that history filled the room.

    Representative CHARLES RANGEL: I hope Mr. Bonner , in his statement, did not imply my lack of love for my country.

    O'DONNELL: The Alabama Republican who so forcefully chided Rangel ...

    Representative BONNER: I was born in Selma .

    O'DONNELL: ...stopped to praise his past.

    Rep. BONNER: I'm grateful that you came and did what you did.

    O'DONNELL: But this hearing was about weighing punishment.

    Mr. BLAKE CHISAM (Ethics Committee Lawyer): It is my recommendation for a censure.

    O'DONNELL: Rangel was at time frustrated and defiant, insisting his mistakes were careless and sloppy, but not about personal gain.

    Rep. RANGEL: I was not trying to criminally hide anything from the IRS or from the Congress .

    O'DONNELL: Tapping a broader anger in the country, the committee said Rangel broke the public trust. Eighty years old, he pleaded for what he called a drop of mercy.

    Rep. RANGEL: I don't know how much longer I have to live, but it always will be to try to help people and to thank God for what he's given to me.

    O'DONNELL: And now the full House of Representatives will consider censure. That's considered a serious penalty, just short of expulsion. He would be forced to go to the floor of the House and be rebuked publicly. He's also been ordered to pay back any taxes he may still owe. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Kelly O'Donnell on Capitol Hill tonight. Kelly , thank you.

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