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Rare House Censure Ends 2-Year Ordeal for Rangel

December 2, 2010 at 6:16 PM EDT
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The House of Representatives took the rare step Thursday of censuring one of its own members, ending a two-year ordeal for long-serving Rep. Charles Rangel. Judy Woodruff has more on the ethics violation rebuke for the 20-term New York Democrat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We misspoke about our final segment tonight. It’s about the House punishing one of its longest-serving members, 20-term Representative Charles Rangel from New York.

Congressman Rangel was the first sitting member to face censure in nearly 30 years. It’s the most serious penalty the House can mete out, short of expulsion. The Ethics Committee recommended censure after convicting the veteran New York Democrat of fund-raising and financial misdeeds that violated House rules.

The committee’s chairwoman, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, made the case on the House floor today.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-Calif.): In making its recommendation, the committee considered the aggregation of Representative Rangel’s misconduct. The committee concluded that his violations occurred on a continuous and prolonged basis and were more serious in character, meriting a strong congressional response rebuking his behavior.

For the violations related to the payment of taxes, the committee considered not only the amount of taxes he failed to pay over many years, but the fact that he served at various times in highly visible and influential positions, as both chairman and ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee. It brought discredit to the House when this member, with great responsibility for tax policy, didn’t fully pay his taxes for many years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Then it was Rangel’s turn. He defended his 40-year House career and insisted he never intended to do anything wrong.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY): I stand to say that I have made serious mistakes. I ask for fairness.

None of the presidents of — the history of this great country, has anyone ever suffered the humiliation of a censure when the record is abundantly clear and never challenged that, in those two years of investigations which I called for, counsel and the committee found no evidence at all of corruption, found no evidence of self-enrichment, found no evidence that there was an intention on my part to evade my responsibility, whether in taxes or whether in financial disclosures.

And there’s absolutely no excuse for my omissions for my responsibility to obey those rules. I take full credit and — for the responsibility of that. I brought it on myself.

But I still believe that this body has to be guided by fairness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Other members, including New York Republican Peter King, tried, but fell short in a bid to give Rangel a lesser punishment.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), ranking member, Homeland Security Committee: Let us apply the same standard of justice to Charlie Rangel that has been applied to everyone else and which all of us would want applied to ourselves.

With that, I respectfully urge a vote against censure.

MAN: On this resolution, the yeas are 333; the nays are 79.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Instead, the recommendation of censure passed by a wide margin.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif), Speaker of the House: Will the gentleman from New York, Mr. Rangel, kindly appear in the well?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rangel then stood before his peers in the well of the House floor as Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally read the public condemnation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: The House is resolved the Representative Charles Rangel of New York be censured, that Representative Charles B. Rangel forthwith present himself in the well of the House for the pronouncement of censure, that Representative Charles B. Rangel be censured with the public reading of this resolution by the speaker, and that Representative Rangel (AUDIO GAP) to the appropriate taxing authorities of the U.S. Treasury for any unpaid estimated taxes outlined in Exhibit 066 on income received from his property in Dominican Republic and provide proof of payment to the committee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Rangel is 80 years old. He won reelection to his 21st term last month.