House turns aside reprimand, moves to Rangel censure vote

The House has turned aside an effort to reduce Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) punishment to a reprimand.

In a 146-267 vote, the House decided to move on to a vote to censure the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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A diverse group of lawmakers argued Rangel should face a reprimand and not the harsher censure punishment, which would require Rangel to stand in the well of the House while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reads the charges and committee’s findings for C-SPAN cameras and the world to see.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke in defense of Rangel, but so did more conservative Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Peter King (N.Y.).

The three Republicans who voted in favor of a reprimand instead of a censure were King, Don Young (R-Alaska) and Ron Paul (R-Texas).

More Democrats voted in favor of reducing the punishment to a reprimand, 143-105.

A weary and battle-worn Rangel also spoke in his own defense, delivering a last-ditch plea for leniency. Rangel had spent the days leading up to the vote lobbying colleagues for a reprimand rather than censure.

In a brief statement on the House floor, Rangel apologized to the crowd of lawmakers “or putting you in this very awkward position today.”

Rangel admitted he has made mistakes and said rules are made to be enforced. But Rangel said his mistakes were not severe enough to warrant censure.

Before the vote, Butterfield said there was “a lot of support” for a reprimand among the Democratic caucus.

“You sentence a person for life who took a life, you don’t sentence a person to life who stole a bike,” said Cleaver.

“The punishment does not meet the crime,” he added. “We just think this is all way out of line.”

He and others arguing against the harsher punishment noted that there have only been four censures leveled in the last 100 years. Those were for “despicable conduct” or acts of “dishonesty.”

They also said Rangel had not acted dishonestly or for his own financial gain.

“These are not acts of dishonesty,” he said. “What Rangel did was reckless and sloppy,” Butterfield said.