The U.S. House of Representatives vote to censure Rep. Charles Rangel was a sham. After the members voted overwhelming, 333 to 79, for the resolution, they applauded the New York Democrat. Rangel told the House “I know in my heart I am not going to be judged by this Congress. I’ll be judged by my life in its entirety.”
The Harlem Democrat then went before the Washington DC press corps and engaged in a classic demonstration of what New Yorkers might call the “chutzpah defense. He denounced the two-year proceedings as “very, very, very, political” and claimed his actions did not rise to the level of corruption because “I did not curse out the speaker. I did not have sex with minors. I did not steal money.”
While Rangel admitted he “brought it on myself” he claimed he didn’t enrich himself and asserted the financial improprieties he was accused of were mere “bookkeeping errors.”
Apparently in Rangel’s world a Congressman who doesn’t pay his income taxes for 17 years, fails to pay taxes on rental income on a Dominican Republic villa he owns, or buys four rent-controlled apartments in New York City for well below market value and uses one as an office in violation of rent-control laws, is not subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens.
Rangel even invoked his military service during the Korean War in his plea for mercy. In Rangel’s World, it seems anyone who serves in the military, gets wounded or gets a medal is exempt from some laws.
To no one’s surprise, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, not only defended Rangel but also tried to get the censure downgraded to a reprimand. The Wilson Democrat asked the House to consider “mitigating circumstances” including Rangel’s military service and 40 years in Congress. Butterfield was the only ethics committee member to vote against censuring Rangel, and he voted against the resolution on the House floor.
Butterfield is one of several House members under investigation by the very committee he sits on suspicion of improperly retaining foreign travel per diem payments. In addition, during the 2010 campaign, his Republican opponent challenged Butterfield to return $4,000 in campaign contributions from Rangel.
Rep. Zoe Lofgreen, chair of the House ethics committee, noted that Rangel and other Democrats had promised the American people they would run the most ethical Congress in history. “We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” the California Democrat said. Another ethics committee member, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said “The credibility of the House of Representatives before the American people.”
It certainly was. And once again, the actions of the House were incredible. The only positive thing about this mock trial might be that the censure resolution itself was probably one of the few bills House members could easily read it its entirety. The one-paragraph bill reads:
Resolved, That (1) Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York be censured; (2) Representative Charles B. Rangel forthwith present himself in the well of the House for the pronouncement of censure; (3) Representative Charles B. Rangel be censured with the public reading of this resolution by the Speaker; and (4) Representative Rangel pay restitution to the appropriate taxing authorities or the U.S. Treasury for any unpaid estimated taxes outlined in Exhibit 066 on income received from his property in the Dominican Republic and provide proof of payment to the Committee.