Representative Charles Rangel is ready to make a last stand to salvage his reputation and tell the House that a censure should be reserved for politicians who are crooked. He will argue that he is not one of them.
The 80-year-old Democrat from New York’s Harlem neighborhood wants his punishment for ethics violations downgraded to a reprimand, according to congressional and nongovernment sources who are in touch with Rangel but are not authorized to be quoted by name.
Rangel will ask the House ethics committee chairman, Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, for time to plead his case on the floor of the House, where he has served for 40 years, including a stint as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The ethics committee voted 9 to 1 on Nov. 18 that Rangel should be censured for committing 11 financial and fund-raising violations of House rules.
There is precedent for Rangel’s argument that censure, the most severe punishment short of expulsion, is too harsh in his case. It won’t be easy because he’ll have to overcome the overwhelming vote of a committee that has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
Rangel plans to argue that censure has been imposed for violations including bribery, accepting improper gifts, personal use of campaign funds, and sexual misconduct; none is present in his case.
The ethics committee agreed in a report that the discipline usually is reserved for lawmakers who enrich themselves. In Rangel’s case, the committee said, its decision was based on “the cumulative nature of the violations and not any direct personal financial gain.’’
The House will take up Rangel’s discipline in the postelection session that resumes today, but no date has been set for decide his punishment.
Obama has scheduled a meeting at the White House with Republican leaders tomorrow, and possible options for compromise will be on the table, including providing a temporary extension for the wealthy.
Congress has a Dec. 3 deadline to pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats are working on a catchall $1.1 trillion to fund the government’s day-to-day operations. Republicans probably will not go along.
Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona denied there was any partisanship behind his calls for a delay. He said the Senate has more urgent business to attend to in the weeks before it breaks for Christmas, including dealing with potential tax increases and funding the government through the rest of the budget year.
“It’s more a view of reality rather than policy,’’ he said. “These are higher priority items.’’
Kyl said the treaty, known as New START, is extremely complex and can wait until the Senate reconvenes with newly elected members in January.