Re: Hey Bela, about Charlie Rangel
posted at 2/26/2010 4:26 PM EST
Beleaguered Rep. Charlie Rangel defied bipartisan calls for him to step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee despite an ethics committee report that found he violated House rules by taking corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean.
The New York Democrat said Friday that the report "exonerates" him because it says there is no evidence that he knew the trips were sponsored by corporations.
The committee said it couldn't determine whether Rangel knew about the financing but found that his staff did -- and concluded Rangel was responsible for learning the truth.
Two Democrats have called on RangelRep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, the first Democratic lawmaker to echo Republican calls for a change in committee leadership, said Friday that Rangel should "either step down or step aside until this is resolved."
The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a press released titled "It's Official: Rangel's Crooked."
"Once promised to be the 'most ethical Congress in history,' the Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands thanks in part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in a written statement. "For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them.
"In this time of great economic uncertainty, struggling middle class Americans deserve better than to have a tax cheat chairing a powerful congressional committee that directly impacts the financial livelihoods of millions of hard working people," he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Rangel Friday, saying the committee found that Rangel "did not willfully break the rules."
Rangel's case involved trips he made to conferences in Antigua and St. Martin in 2007 and 2008 with the Congressional Black Caucus. The committee concluded the trip violated House rules that forbid hidden financing by corporations.