Discord on Ethics Panel Over Rangel Probe
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct appears set to move forward on a probe of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), even as the panel's top Republican is complaining that the process has been too slow.
Acting Ethics Chairman Gene Green (D-Texas) released a statement today saying that he intends to recommend to Rep. Doc Hastings (Wash.), the panel's ranking Republican, and the rest of the committee that it create an investigative subcommittee to handle a Rangel probe, a step that could occur at the panel's next scheduled meeting Sept. 24. The investigation will come at Rangel's own request, as he has asked the committee to review several different sets of allegations against him.
But in an unusual move, Hastings released his own statement today -- having first informed Green of his intent to do so, per committee rules -- lamenting that this step was not taken earlier.
"It has been my repeatedly stated intention since July that the Committee should form an Investigative Subcommittee to look into matters relating to Representative Rangel," Hastings said. "This has been delayed for far too long. Action should have been taken in July or since the House reconvened two weeks ago."
Green, of course, only recently was named chairman after the previous holder of the gavel, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), died in August. So Hastings' inference is that he asked Jones back in July (Rangel first asked the committee to investigate him July 17) to get the ball rolling on a probe and was rebuffed, for reasons that are unclear. Because Tubbs Jones served on Ways and Means, the committee Rangel chairs, she may have had to recuse herself from the investigation altogether.
Hastings went even further in his statement today, saying: "I have recommended that the Investigative Subcommittee be led by Chairman Green and myself as Ranking Member, with the other two positions being filled by senior Members of the Committee.
"It is also my belief that the Committee should retain a special counsel to staff the Investigative Subcommittee considering Representative Rangel's own public admission that special expertise is needed to understand and uncover the facts of his financial records and public filings.
"I regret having to issue this statement and do not intend to comment further."
Does Hastings' public statement of these recommendations mean that he believes Green and the rest of the panel's Democrats will deny his requests? Rangel's fate has already become the subject of political gamesmanship, with Republicans demanding that he surrender the Ways and Means gavel. Rangel has refused to do so. Will similar partisanship infect the ethics committee as it goes forward? We'll find out more next week when the panel meets.
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