Black Caucus member: Ethics trials are not racially motivated

A member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Wednesday denied that ethics trials into Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) are racially motivated. 

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a former member of the House ethics committee, said the charges were brought forth because of pressure on the panel to finish their work before the end of the current Congress, not because of racial bias.

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"I don't believe that race has any part of this," he said on CBS News's "Washington Unplugged" webcast, later adding that "these matters have to be resolved before the current term."

Some CBC members have quietly suggested that the decision to bring charges against Rangel and Waters was made because both lawmakers are black and have been singled out for greater scrutiny than their white counterparts. 

The dual trials, which will take place as Democrats try to stave off losses in the fall midterms, have caused some to pressure Waters and Rangel to accept a deal to avoid public hearings.

But Fattah said that both members have the right to defend themselves and predicted they would clear their names.

"You settle cases when they create more aggravation than it's worth to defend yourself," he said. "And from Chairman Rangel's point of view, having a permanent stain on his legacy or his work is much more problematic if he were to admit that he did something wrong.

"Many times what the facts seem to be don't always pan out. When you look at the issues here, I am willing to bet you that Chairman Rangel will be able to clear his good name," he added.

During the interview, Fattah repeatedly used the title "chairman" to describe Rangel. The New York congressman stepped down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee earlier this year while the ethics committee continued its investigation of him.

Of Waters, Fattah said that he has read through the allegations and her defiant response and believes that "she'll be cleared, also."

The Pennsylvania Democrat echoed CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who this week blamed the media for the fallout over the Waters trial. He also said that Republicans should be grilled harder for ethics problems in their conference, mentioning embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)

"Where is the suggestion that Sen. Ensign should resign or step down?" he asked. "Where is the hammering of Republicans on this?"

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