Image: Charles Rangel
House Television  /  AP
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., speaks on the House floor on Thursday: "I brought it on to myself."
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updated 12/3/2010 9:30:53 AM ET 2010-12-03T14:30:53

A 40-year congressional veteran became just the 23rd member of the House of Representatives in U.S. history to be censured for misconduct.

As the final chapter of a more than two-year ethics investigation played out on Thursday, Charles Rangel moved through several zones of emotion: contrition, anger, relief, defiance.

The 80-year-old Democrat remains a political leader in New York's Harlem. But in the House, his influence has waned. He stepped down from the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee last March after he was criticized in a separate ethics investigation.

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In the next Congress, resurgent Republicans will control the committee and there's virtually no chance that Rangel will be the top Democrat. Other senior lawmakers already had moved ahead of him in the committee's Democratic hierarchy.

Before censure vote, punishment downgrade failed

Beyond the stain on his career, the censure will have little, practical effect. Rangel's seat appears safe as long as he wants it. He received nearly 80 percent of the vote last month when he won his 21st term, and easily won his primary. He remains extremely popular with his House colleagues, greeting them by the dozens as he moves through Congress.

'I brought it on to myself'
The House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel for failing to pay all his taxes, filing misleading financial statements, improperly seeking money from corporate interests for a college center bearing his name and setting up a campaign office in a subsidized, New York apartment designated for residential use.

When Rangel spoke to the House before the censure vote, he contritely said, "I brought it on to myself." He appealed for fairness, but let a half-dozen supporters argue unsuccessfully for a lesser reprimand.

After the vote, speaking to the House, Rangel showed a flash of anger, saying that "at no time has it ever entered my mind to enrich myself or to do violence to the honesty that's expected of all of us in this House."

Rangel looked like a relieved man as he tried to leave the chamber. He only made it a third of the way up the aisle when well-wishers stopped and hugged him. He said something that made them laugh, and he smiled during the 10 minutes it took to exit.

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Defiant Rangel criticizes 'political vote'
By the time of his post-censure news conference, Rangel was defiant.

"History would show that a different standard has been used in this case where I did not curse out the Speaker, I did not try to have sex with minors," he said, referring to past censure cases.

He said he originally asked for an ethics investigation to counter "reporters who lie knowingly."

"I am at rest with myself, and I am convinced that when history of this has been written that people will recognize that the vote for censure was a very, very, very political vote," Rangel said.

The chairman of the ethics committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, told the House the censure her committee recommended was consistent with a Democratic pledge to run "the most honest, most open, most ethical Congress in history."

She said Rangel "violated the public trust."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: House censures Rangel for ethics breach

  1. Closed captioning of: House censures Rangel for ethics breach

    >> now to politics and a rare scene on capitol hill on thursday. congressman charles rangel sen ch sured on the house floor for breaking ethics rules.

    >> reporter: this is the kind of history making moment that makes everybody around here sad. for the first time since 1983 , the house censured one of its own, finding that charlie rangel was in violation of 11 ethics rules. a tense and dramatic ritual on the house floor.

    >> will the gentleman from new york mr. rangel kindly appear in the well.

    >> reporter: as speaker of the house , it was nancy pelosi 's duty to formally admonish her longtime friend and allie. this public shaming ended a two-year bipartisan investigation.

    >> we found that representative rangel engaged in misconduct in four areas.

    >> reporter: among the violations, republicanal failed to report taxes and income and used his office to raise millions for a college center in his name.

    >> this is a day that does not have to be.

    >> reporter: the ethics committee said that rangel deserved a serious punishment.

    >> most egregiously, the committee found that mr. rangel failed to pay his income taxes for 17 years.

    >> reporter: rangel expressed sorrow.

    >> let me apologize to this august body for putting you in this very awkward position.

    >> reporter: acknowledged he broke rules --

    >> i have made serious mistakes.

    >> reporter: but then rangel and his supporters argued for a lesser sanction, saying censure had been used for congressmen convicted of crimes or sexual misconduct . new york's republican peter king argued censure was too severe.

    >> expulsion is the equivalent of the death penalty, then censure is life imprisonment .

    >> reporter: but overwhelmingly the house chose scensure. later rangel 's turn more bitter saying past offenders brought more dishonor to the house.

    >> i think history would show that a different standard has been used in this case where i did not curse out the speaker, i have not tried to have sex with minors, i did not steal any money.

    >> reporter: and rangel repeatedly pointed out that the committee did not find that his mistakes were about trying to advance some personal gain, but still this is a very serious punishment. but it ends here, there are no outside criminal charges pending and rangel will be sworn in for his first term in january.

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