Embattled Rep. Rangel Temporarily Relinquishes Chairmanship

BY Quinn Bowman  March 3, 2010 at 11:54 AM EST


Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., temporarily stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee Wednesday.

Rangel was recently admonished by the House Ethics Committee for taking trips to the Caribbean paid for by private companies, a violation of House rules.

“In order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections, 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,” Rangel said at a news conference Wednesday.

Rangel is also facing questions about whether he paid federal taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of several rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, according to the New York Times.

The powerful Ways and Means Committee is responsible for issues related to taxes, Social Security and Medicare.

It is unclear what Democrat might replace Rangel as chairman should he not return to his post. Politico reported that it would likely be Pete Stark of California or Sander Levin of Michigan.

Bloomberg reported that Rangel’s decision came as House members who face tough re-election prospects started to denounce the chairman and return campaign donations from him.