Rangel taking a "leave of absence"
Rep. Charles Rangel, the animated but controversial head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has decided to step down — at least temporarily — from his perch atop the panel, according to news reports.
“I have, this morning, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work,” the congressman announced today during a brief meeting with reporters.
The 20-term New York Democrat had been admonished last week by the House Ethics Committee, which found that Rangel had violated congressional lobbying rules when he was flown to Caribbean business conferences in recent years at the expense of corporate sponsors.
The Ethics Committee finding was odd for a number of reasons. (1) The same House Ethics Committee had approved the trips before Rangel ever boarded a plane. (2) Other lawmakers on the same junkets were cleared of all wrong-doing. And (3) the ethics panel conceded that Rangel himself didn’t know about the corporate sponsorships, though members of his staff allegedly did.
“Common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or mistakes or errors of staff unless there is reason to believe the members knew or should have known,” Rangel said last week.
Considering all of that, some Washington prognosticators were speculating that the recent admonishment was the least of the problems facing Rangel, who is being investigated for a laundry list of separate ethics violations. As The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart pointed out last week:
There’s the use of official stationary to solicit funds for a school of public policy named after him, the rent-controlled apartments and the revised financial disclosure forms that potentially double his net worth. Among other things, those forms revealed not one, but two checking accounts with up to $500,000 in them. I don’t know about you, but I’d be very mindful of having that much coin in checking. I can’t wait to hear Rangel’s explanation. There doesn’t seem to be anyone to throw under the bus for that one.
Meanwhile, Democrats will have to name a replacement for Rangel atop the Ways and Means panel — no easy task considering that the next in line, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), is even more controversial than Rangel.
Controversy? Pete Stark? Say it ain't so! But let's face a simple fact here that the Democrats may have to accept. Yes, Pete Stark is controversial. Yes, Pete Stark sounds like an idiot when he has foot-in-mouth disease. But he's not a tax-cheat. He's not a crooked politician (at least not that I'm aware of). He's a significant step up from Rangel. And Rangel, always one to hoist himself up on the cross for his party (and unwarranted sympathy) asserted this in his press statement today:
“I also would like to say that, from the very, very beginning, I had offered this to Speaker Pelosi.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire. He virtually said last night he wouldn't give up the gavel to the most powerful House committee that DC has. He was doing his best to avoid having to do this, but as his statement above shows, he's not doing this because he knows he did something wrong. He's doing this to give political cover to his colleagues facing tough reelection bids in November. Rangel realizes that his continued presence is an albatross around the neck of his party.
What he, and speaker Pelosi, don't seem to get is that it really doesn't matter if he's there or not. People are ticked at Congress and, as Charlie Cook has pointed out there are no serious, winning scenarios for Democrats this fall. (That's not to say the prediction is a slam dunk, folks. We still have a ton of work to do to ensure that happens.) The people of America aren't happy that Democrats haven't "solved" the unemployment problems, economic woes, and the general malaise the nation is suffering. They're not happy that the federal government owns a serious majority stake in two car companies, that they're virtually controlling the banks and mortgage industry, and that they're pushing for the seizure of the health care industry with this insane non-reform reform.
Charlie Rangel isn't the biggest problem for Democrats. The Democrat's rapid overreach of power is what's killing them. But they don't think they're the problem. As I observed yesterday this is all about their over-inflated egos, and a drive to make this nation into something that is anathema to its basic founding. Democrats don't want to trust the people. They want to rule the people like some narcissistic royal.
We welcome Rangels' absence, but that's not the overall problem. The problem is his party, and they're not in the mood to hear more criticism.