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Rangel Keeping Gavel as Succession Question Looms

UPDATE: Rangel is not stepping down from his post as Ways and Means chairman, according to his attorney, Lanny Davis. The New York Daily News quotes Davis as saying Rangel "never even considered the possibility."

ORIGINAL POST 12:34 PM: As of this writing, embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) remains the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

With the New Yorker buffeted by several different allegations and facing a self-requested ethics committee probe, Republicans have called on Rangel to relinquish his gavel, and his fate was the apparent subject of a private meeting between him and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Monday night. Though the New York Post reports Pelosi pressured Rangel to step down from his post, several sources tell Capitol Briefing that simply didn't happen, even if some Democrats privately hope he does relinquish the gavel. The decision on what to do next appears to be Rangel's alone, and he is meeting with close House allies today to decide on his next move.

What if he does step down?

According to House rules, "In the temporary absence of the chairman, the member next in rank as named in the resolution electing the committee acts as chairman." That would hand the Ways and Means gavel, temporarily at least, to Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who is second on the committee roster behind Rangel.

But if Rangel permanently vacates the post, Democrats face a tough decision. Though Stark is next in line, seniority is no longer the only factor the party uses to hand out chairmanships. And the Californian has a long history of controversial outbursts -- including referring to a Republican leader's illegitimate child, calling a woman lawmaker a "whore" for the insurance industry, dubbing another member a "little fruitcake," likening the GOP to the Nazi party and suggesting American soldiers were being sent to die in Iraq "for the President's amusement."

In short, there is no way Democratic leaders will hand the reins of such an important committee to Stark. Next up on the seniority list is Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.) a veteran lawmaker who has worked mostly on trade issues and has also run the Social Security subcommittee. But if seniority really isn't the deciding factor, then Democrats could reach even further down the line -- past Reps. Jim McDermott (Wash.) and John Lewis (Ga.) -- to hand the gavel to Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), who has a slightly more moderate record than the other members mentioned and is seen as having a bright future on the panel.

For now, House Democrats see these questions as wildly premature. Rangel is still the chairman, and even if he does step down temporarily, the majority hopes that the ethics panel will complete its investigation and allow him to return to the job by January. If he does, the House's term-limit rule would let Rangel hold the chairmanship for four more years. Maybe by 2012, the line of succession will be a little clearer than it is today.

UPDATE 12:50 PM: Capitol Briefing alumnus Paul Kane passes along that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) today rejected calls for Rangel to step aside, even temporarily, as committee chairman.

"No, I don't think there's any reason. He's done exactly what a member should do. And that is, ask the [ethics committee] to review all of the matters, all of the issues that have been raised," Hoyer said.

Instead, Hoyer said the Rangel matter should be put to rest as the ethics inquiries continue, and that he hoped the inquiry would be handled "expiditiously and thoroughly." Hoyer said there would likely be some small political fallout for Democrats but said they had to allow the internal investigation go forward before prejudging someone.

"Any time questions are raised about politicians it's a political question, but, the fact of the matter is, we have a process," he said.

By Ben Pershing  |  September 16, 2008; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , Ethics and Rules , House  
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This corruption in Washington never seems to end. They caught another bum and he is kicking and screaming to keep his toys.

What is the sense of voting if nothing ever, ever changes?

Posted by: LOOKING IN | September 16, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

So much for changing Washington. I wonder what Obama thinks?

Posted by: Tony - Boston | September 16, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Hoyer said, "No, I don't think there's any reason. He's done exactly what a member should do. And that is, ask the [ethics committee] to review all of the matters, all of the issues that have been raised."

Nice job of rangeling, Steny-boy. This is an election year in which a close eye is kept on members of both parties. With ethics, or in this case - lack of ethics, at issue, this is only a delay tactic on the democrat side.

He guilty. He knows it. Hoyer knows it. The voters know it. He should be dealth with according to the laws that he supports: claiming ignorance of what someone else did with your finances means you are STILL accountable. Rangel needs to resign.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Rangel is an embarrassment. As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, his taxe returns should be squeaky clean. His claims of innocence doesn't cut it. The Dems shouldn't put up with that kind of crap.

Posted by: al from fairfax | September 16, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

When David Vitter admitted to multiple sexual trists with hookers he refused to step down and was actually applauded by other republicans when he returned to the Senate floor.

Posted by: Bill | September 16, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Is it any wonder why the voters have no confidence in these thugs that are without any shame and rally to protect each other? In any other situation this guy would be suspended until the charges were decided upon.
DISGUSTING! Again,the Dems are as sleazy as the Repubs.

Posted by: Richard Head | September 16, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Both sides have people that need to shown the door when they loose their way. Charley needs to find another line of work.

Posted by: Two Faced | September 16, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

But remember, Bill, Vittner's transgression was only about sex.

Posted by: William | September 16, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Typical Democrat Hypocrites - can you imagine how Crazy-Eyes-Nan and company would be screaming if the obviously corrupt Rangel had an (R) after his name?

You Libs have absolutely no shame.


Signed - An informed independent

Posted by: Tim_CA | September 16, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

This just in:

John McCain's a child molester:

Posted by: Bill | September 16, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Has Larry Craig stepped down yet? Oh, that's right. A gay republican senator can solicit sex in a public restroom and the republican's think that's just fine. Just like Palin's daughter can be knocked up at 17 years old. This is the party that is claiming the moral highground. What bunch of laughable hypocrites!

Posted by: Bill | September 16, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

its its the dance of the hand maydens of the democratic party

Posted by: wtobias | September 16, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm a screaming mad Democrat! Charlie Rangel needs to temporarily step down for the good of the Party. Obama needs a clean house to win this election. Why am I the only one who feels this makes us look like the corrupt Repubs?

If Obama drops Biden for Hillary, we are doomed. He'll look like the biggest loser, unfaithful and unable to make good decisions. Biden is great and has experience Hillary does not in World Affairs. Just wait to see what he does to mommy/homemaker Palin in the debate.

Posted by: John | September 16, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

TERM LIMITS is the solution...we limit to 2 terms our Pres. may serve...and we should limit the terms a member of Congress & Senate may serve...we have people & political machines that are entrenched in our govt. and do not serve the people's interest, only their own special interest...our political system never was intended to allow individuals to feed for a lifetime at the taxpayers table.

Posted by: ltk01 | September 16, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: snapplecat07 | September 16, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

If the guy who writes tax legislation gets caught failing to file and pay proper taxes his penalty should be double.

What I don't get is that he should be too embarrassed to ever retake his seat as chairman. But as Vitter, Craig, Jefferson and Fossella show, you leave embarrassment at the door when you step into the Capitol.

The embarrassment bar is so high even Yao Ming can't dunk over it! They should all be selling used cars--very used cars.

Posted by: bulldog6 | September 17, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Where is the media? Where is the press? Rangel is a liar and a tax cheater and HE is in charge of taxes. Remember, the Democrats have been running things for the last 2 years. What has happened in the last week will be nothing compared to what happens if Obama get is office. The Democratic congress has blocked all reform in the last 2 years. Obama has voted his party line 97% of the time. That's some change.

Posted by: Marie | September 18, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

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