Rangel’s Ethics Trial, Lame Duck Begin

BY Terence Burlij  November 15, 2010 at 8:26 AM EST

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. File photo by Getty Images.

The Morning Line

As dozens of newly-elected members of Congress arrive this week for freshmen orientation, one veteran lawmaker begins his fight to save his job.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., after months of investigations, will finally have his ethics trial on Capitol Hill Monday. Rangel will represent himself against charges that he did not report income from a house in the Dominican Republic to the IRS and that he improperly used House letterhead to solicit money for a school, among other charges.

You can read the 13 charges here.

Rangel, 80, is a 40-year House veteran who this year stepped down as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means amid the investigation. Rangel refused to avoid a trial by admitting that he broke House rules and maintains he will be found innocent of the charges. He was reelected to another term on Nov. 2 in his Harlem district.

“I’m confident that at the end of the day, my constituents’ faith in me, as demonstrated by their overwhelming vote, will be well-founded,” Rangel said.

At Monday’s hearing, chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., as well as Rangel will make opening statements. Five Republicans and five Democrats sit on the ethics committee.

Although the midterm elections didn’t go very well for the Democrats, they did avoid having Rangel’s trial take place before the election. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., also faces an ethics trial on charges she helped a bank affiliated with her husband.

The Sunlight Foundation will provide live coverage of the trial. You can see that here.

A CAUCUS DIVIDED

House Democrats rid themselves of one intra-party fight over the weekend only to discover another one brewing.

In the aftermath of the midterm elections that saw Democrats lose at least 60 seats, the party faced the new reality that it would have one fewer leadership position in the 112th Congress than the number of lawmakers currently serving in the Democratic leadership.

When outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would run for minority leader, it set off a battle for the number two post in the caucus — minority whip — between Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn, the highest ranking African-American in Congress. Hoyer, the current majority leader, had the support of moderates and many veteran members of the caucus, while Clyburn had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus.

But a potentially divisive Hoyer-Clyburn contest disappeared late Friday when Pelosi said she would nominate Clyburn to a newly established and still unnamed leadership position that would keep him as the third ranking member in the Democratic caucus.

Clyburn penned a letter to his colleagues Saturday urging them to accept the arrangement. “To me, the best way to resolve this issue, maintain diversity in the leadership and cohesion in our Caucus is to pull up another chair to the leadership table with a substantive, well-defined portfolio that will contribute in a meaningful way to our important work and to regaining the majority,” wrote Clyburn.

Just as Democrats thought they had figured everything out, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, announced Sunday he would challenge Pelosi if she continues to run for minority leader. “If it comes to this coming week and she doesn’t step aside, I will challenge,” said Shuler on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Given the losses suffered by Democrats in the election, Shuler contended it was “unacceptable” to install Pelosi as minority leader.

Shuler did admit, however, that he didn’t have the votes to win. “I can add and subtract pretty well,” said Shuler.

STILL COUNTING IN ALASKA

The write-in vote count in the Alaska Senate race continues to go Lisa Murkowski’s way. The Associated Press reported Sunday that Sen. Murkowski has 89 percent of the undisputed write-in vote after five days of counting.

Murkowski ran a write-in campaign after she lost the GOP primary to Tea Party-backed challenger Joe Miller.

According to the AP, more than 98,500 write-in ballots were cast and Murkowski trailed Miller by 8,820 votes on Sunday. Murkowski’s campaign team has said it needs at least 90 percent of the unchallenged write-in vote to win. About 8 percent of the write-in ballots are being challenged for various issues, like the spelling of Murkowski’s name.

According to the Washington Post, Miller won 35 percent of the ballots on Election Day, but 40 percent of voters wrote in their choice. Presumably, most of the those went to Murkowski.