Rangel at New York birthday bash: This ain't no funeral

Both of New York's Democratic senators showed up for Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) 80th birthday bash at the Plaza Hotel on Wednesday night, as did Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation.

"This damn sure ain't no funeral, is it?" Rangel said to the hotel's packed grand ballroom at what has become an annual Rangel fundraiser.

Rangel's battle with the House ethics committee, which has brought 13 charges against the longtime New York lawmaker, has been a distraction for his party and brought new worries about Democrats chances to retain the House this fall. 

Many in Rangel's party were irritated with him for delivering a meandering, 30-minute floor speech this week on the House floor, where he offered a defense. The unusual speech took attention away from the special one-day session where the House approved a $26 billion state aid package and border security legislation.

Still, despite rumblings that top New York lawmakers might not turn out for the affair because of Rangel's troubles, Wednesday night's event included most of New York's high-profile political players.

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand attended. So did state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo (D) and Gov. David Paterson (D).

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who earlier in the week suggested he may not make the event, was in attendance Wednesday night but declined an invitation to speak.

At least three Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation, however, were not in attendance: Reps. Tim Bishop, Carolyn Maloney and Mike McMahon. All three cited scheduling conflicts. All three also happen to have elections to worry about this fall.

Upstate Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri was also nowhere near Rangel's party. Arcuri is one of 10 House Democrats to have called on Rangel to resign, and the only member of Rangel's home-state delegation to do so.

The annual party has been a huge fundraiser for Rangel in the past, and it's one he needed this year more than most thanks to the legal bills. Tickets for Wednesday's event ranged from $250 to $2,500.

The Rev. Al Sharpton aimed his fire at the press after the event, telling reporters, “You have started and executed the political crucifixion."

A trial for Rangel before the House ethics committee looms in September. In his floor speech this week, Rangel warned lawmakers, "I an not going away."

A second ethics trial, for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) in September, will likely follow. Waters is accused of violating House rules in connection with bailout funds that went to OneUnited, a bank in which her husband is a stockholder.


-- Updated at 9:15 a.m.