By Jared Allen - 07/27/10 04:41 PM EDT
The House’s second-ranking Democrat on Tuesday said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will decide on his own whether to resign his seat or go forward with Thursday’s ethics inquiry.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters he did not know what Rangel’s decision would be. The Ethics Committee on Thursday is scheduled to convene publicly to spell out its charges against the New York Democrat.
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) became the second House Democrat to say the veteran New Yorker should give up his seat in a report published Monday. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), another vulnerable Democrat facing a difficult reelection contest, told The Hill that Rangel should resign on Friday.
Despite those calls, Hoyer indicated House leaders aren’t inclined to force Rangel’s hand — at least not overtly.
“Mr. Rangel has to do what Mr. Rangel believes is appropriate and proper,” Hoyer said.
On Monday night, the Congressional Black Caucus came out in strong support of Rangel, saying in a statement that Rangel was fully entitled to his day in court and urged their colleagues not to prejudge the outcome of a process that has not concluded.
Hoyer stressed the ethics process is working and cited as an example the Rangel charges themselves.
"We've made it much more visible, there's much more reporting going on," Hoyer said. "And I'll remind you all that what the Ethics Committee is doing is exactly what Mr. Rangel requested."
But as leaders are aware, Rangel appears to want the chance to mount a full defense at a public trial less than two months before the mid-term election. Many Democrats worried their party could lose the House will want to avoid that scene.
So far, Democratic leaders have not signaled their intentions, but on Tuesday, Hoyer acknowledged the existence of a feeling within the Caucus that the matter is no longer confined to just Rangel.
"I think everybody would like it to go away," Hoyer said with a chuckle," in the sense that this isn't a pleasant process. But it's an important process."
This story was updated at 12:41 p.m.