By Shane D'Aprile - 07/31/10 10:00 AM EDT
The calls for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign are piling up as the congressman's ethics trial threatens to loom large over campaign season.
The tally of House Democrats calling on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign his seat in Congress stood at eight as members adjourned for the August recess late Friday. That number includes Rep. Mike Arcuri (D-N.Y.), the first Democrat from Rangel's home state to call for his ouster.
The resignation calls began more than a week ago with Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who heads back to her district with the recognition of being the first House Democrat to call on Rangel to resign.
After Sutton, most House Democrats held their fire throughout the course of the week leading up to Thursday's ethics committee hearing. On Wednesday, Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), who represents one of the most conservative districts in the nation, became the second Democrat to call for Rangel's resignation.
Minnick was followed by Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio).
"We've heard Charlie in the Ways and Means Committee, and he's addressed these charges. He never denied they happened. He always has an explanation. You can excuse one or two, but not 13," Yarmuth said in an interview with the Lousiville Courier-Journal.
Arcuri (D-N.Y.) became the first New York Democratic member to call for Rangel to resign his seat Friday. Arcuri told Gannett that Rangel's situation "is beginning to affect our ability to govern."
Democrats are likely to face renewed pressure to call on the embattled Rangel to resign throughout the August recess. The House ethics committee outlined 13 violations against Rangel on Thursday.
"Democrats will not only be called upon to donate their tainted Rangel campaign cash, they will be held accountable for their party's now-broken promise for 'the most ethical Congress in history,'" said NRCC Spokesman Paul Lindsay.
Still, some vulnerable House Democrats declined to call for Rangel to resign his seat in Congress when given the chance Friday.
"I'm just focused on my own race and letting that process work itself out," said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.). "But any member who does something wrong should be held accountable."
"I think the process is working," Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) told The Hill.
Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.) ignored a question on whether Rangel should resign. An aide told The Hill to submit a formal request through the congressman's office.
Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), a Blue Dog Democrat and top Republican target in 2010 given the conservative nature of his Alabama congressional district, responded "absolutely not" when asked if Rangel should step down.
"We have a procedure in place and we need to let that procedure work," Bright said. "It's easy politically for politicians to voice their opinions, but it's the true statesman and rational people who say, 'let the process work.'"
If the charges are found to be true, Bright added, Rangel should face the consequences including possible expulsion from the House. But until then, he said, members should hold their fire.
The 80-year-old lawmaker is accused of improperly using his office to solicit donations for a school of public policy in his name at the City College of New York (CCNY); of using a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem for his campaign office; of failing to report more than $600,000 on his financial disclosure report; and of failing to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.
Democrats rolled out a plan earlier in the week aimed at being on the offensive throughout the August recess, vowing to avoid a repeat of last summer's break where raucous town halls in dozens of districts over healthcare reform kept members on their heels and knocked the party off-message.
As Republicans hammer the party's candidates over government spending, the federal budget deficit and corruption in Washington, Democrats will counter with warnings of a return to "Bush-era policies" and the "fringe agenda" of the Tea Party movement that Democrats say has been fully adopted by Republican Party leaders.
Still, Rangel will hang over the heads of Democratic members throughout the August break. The worst possible scenario for the party is an open ethics trial for Rangel that would dominate news coverage less than two months before Election Day.
An open trial is still not a forgone conclusion, but as of Friday the ethics committee was moving full steam ahead in anticipation of a trial in early September.