Rangel Demands Hearing Date From Ethics Panel in Lengthy Floor Speech

BY Quinn Bowman  August 10, 2010 at 3:22 PM EST

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., used a House rule to allow himself an hour of uninterrupted time to speak on the floor. Rangel has been formally charged by the House ethics committee with 13 counts of breaking House rules related to his personal finances and use of his office.

He used approximately 40 minutes of that time to issue a rambling plea for the ethics committee to announce when he will be entitled to a hearing to defend himself of the charges against him.

The rule Rangel used is called a “Point of Personal Privilege” and allows members to defend his or her rights, reputation, or conduct. He spoke during an emergency session of the House, called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in order to pass emergency funding for state governments.

“Hey, I’m 80 years old, all my life has been from the beginning about public service – the army, the state legislature, I was a federal prosecutor – and all I’m doing here is, if it is the judgment of people here that I resign then heck, have the ethics committee expedite this,” Rangel said. “Don’t leave me swinging in the wind. If this is an emergency session to help state governments out, what about me?”

Rangel apologized for what he said were mistakes in violating House rules, but said he wasn’t corrupt and was not resigning.

“I am not going away, I am here!” Rangel exclaimed to applause by some of the Democrats in the chamber.

Rangel also referenced President Obama’s statement on the ethics charges. President Obama said he hoped Rangel would want to end his career with dignity.

“Some people said the president decided his life might be made easier if there were no Charlie, no so-called scandal. I interpret it another way. I think when the president said that he wanted me to end my career in dignity he didn’t put a timeline on it,” Rangel said.

Rangel is accused of failing to report income from a rental property in the Dominican Republic and other sources, plus for soliciting money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York from businesses that had issues before the House Ways and Means committee he chaired.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the Republican Conference Committee, told the NewsHour that the Democratic leadership of the House has let the Rangel investigation go on too long.

“After many promises to drain the swamp, the Democratic leadership allowed this to linger for the past two years,” Pence said.

“If the charges against Charlie Rangel are true he should resign from Congress. Only Charlie Rangel knows if the charges are true,” he added. “I believe that if Charlie Rangel wants a full vetting he’s entitled to due process.”

With reporting on Capitol Hill by Linda J. Scott.