Newer House Dems under pressure on Rangel
By Perry Bacon Jr.
House Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 are under more pressure than many of their colleagues to side with Republicans as the GOP seeks to strip embattled Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) of his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.
Many of those members won races over the past two campaign cycles by casting themselves as reformers running against Republicans tarnished by ethics scandals, and the GOP is demanding they now live up to a pledge by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to end what she called the "culture of corruption" that prevailed when Republicans ran the House.
"These Democrats who ran on 'change' and promised to run the most ethical Congress in history have a responsibility to call for Charlie Rangel's resignation and to give back the thousands in tainted money they received from him," said Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Only two Democrats backed the GOP's efforts last year to remove Rangel from his committee post. But since the House ethics committee admonished Rangel on Friday for violating congressional gift rules, a number of the newly-elected members have distanced themselves from the lawmaker, including Class of 2006 member Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H) and Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), who was elected two years ago.
Hodes called for Rangel to step down from this committee chairmanship, while Minnick's campaign said he would donate to charity a $10,000 donation from Rangel.
"Given the ethics committee finding, it seemed like an appropriate thing to do," said John Foster, a spokesman for Minnick's campaign. Foster was not sure if Minnick would support a GOP resolution to strip Rangel of his chairmanship.
Aides in both parties expect at least a dozen Democrats to defect from Rangel, who violated House rules by attending Caribbean conferences in 2007 and 2008 that were funded in part by corporations.
Rangel, 79, also faces accusations that he failed to disclose thousands in assets, improperly used congressional stationery to solicit donations for an academic center bearing his name at a New York college, and used multiple, rent-controlled apartments in Harlem in violation of city law.
But party leaders, including Pelosi, have said lawmakers should wait until the ethics committee completes its review of those matters before deciding Rangel's fate, and the chairman himself has said he will remain in his post and seek reelection this fall.
Fewer than ten Democrats have said they would vote out Rangel, leaving Republicans about 30 short of the number they would need to strip him of the chairmanship.
Perry Bacon Jr.
March 2, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Ethics
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