The Morning Line: The Rangel Trial

BY David Chalian  July 23, 2010 at 8:51 AM EST

Remember way back when (read: Monday) Democrats were feeling excited about being 6 points up in the generic congressional ballot and were hopeful the week would be dominated by Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, calling for a return to the exact same pro-business agenda of the Bush years?

Well, it is pretty clear that the week leading up to the “100 days out from Election Day mark” didn’t quite go according to plan for the majority party. The Democrats’ desired week of Wall Street reform, unemployment benefits extension, small business loans, and their “repeal and repeat” contrast with the GOP turned into the week of the Shirley Sherrod controversy (complete with presidential phone call and interview on the subject), the collapse of comprehensive energy reform (one of the three legs of President Obama’s legislative priority stool), and Charlie Rangel’s alleged ethics violations.

“A House investigative panel has found “substantial reason to believe” that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career,” reports the New York Times.

The House Ethics Committee hearing into the allegations against Rangel will be open to the public.

The former Ways and Means chairman said he looked forward to clearing his name once and for all, but this investigation will arm the Republicans with a top of news data point tying Rangel as closely as possible to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and reminding voters that the ways of Washington have not appeared to change under Democratic control.

The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately began trying to tie Rangel to vulnerable Democrats in competitive races this year. “This is troubling news not only for Congressman Rangel, but for one of his most ardent defenders — Bobby Bright. For over a year, the Charlie Rangel saga dragged on while Rep. Bright not only sat idly by, but voted to keep him atop one of Congress’ most powerful committees,” said NRCC spokesman Andy Sere.

Stormin’ Norman

Politico’s Jonathan Martin has the scoop that former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is making the rounds feeling out key players in the GOP about a possible challenge to the embattled Michael Steele as Republican National Committee chairman when the post comes up again in January.

The upcoming gathering of the RNC in Kansas City next month will provide a clear sense of how much support remains inside the committee for Steele.

Out of Energy

Senate Democrats pulled the plug on a comprehensive energy package yesterday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., conceded he did not have the votes to move forward given total Republican opposition as well as several from his own party not supportive of the legislation.

This move will haunt House Democrats with images of 1994 when the House voted to pass a BTU tax only to have the Senate let it die on the vine. Last year, Democrats in the House passed a comprehensive energy plan including a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon gas emissions, and once again that vote will hang out there as a political piñata for Republicans now that the Senate has made clear it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon.