Awkward: House leaders to honor Rangel nine months after censure

It may be one of the more awkward honorary ceremonies in recent memory.

On Thursday, House leaders will pay tribute to Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), less than a year after the House formally censured the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will speak at a ceremony to unveil Rangel’s official portrait as chairman of the storied committee, which the longtime New York Democrat led from 2007 until March 2010, when party leaders pressured him to give up the post amid a growing ethics scandal.

In December, the House voted overwhelmingly, 333-79, to censure Rangel over rules violations that stemmed from unpaid taxes on a villa he owned in the Dominican Republic, undisclosed financial assets and the improper use of his office for fundraising. 

The portrait itself was the subject of controversy. Just nine months into his term as chairman, Rangel asked the Federal Election Commission for permission to use campaign funds to pay for the portrait, which his lawyer said would cost more than $64,000.

When pressed about the pricey picture, Rangel joked to reporters at the time that he would have preferred a mural.

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The FEC confirmed that Rangel could bill the expense to his campaign, which records show he did in 2008, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

The ceremony on Thursday will be a particular honor for Rangel, a decorated combat veteran who was the first African American to lead the Ways and Means Committee. "As I walk around the Capitol," he said in 2007, "the only black folks I see are slaves holding the goddamn horses."

Rangel told The Hill on Wednesday that he was looking forward to the ceremony, which will be followed by a private reception.

“I don’t think I have to share how pleased I am that we’re moving forward. What happened last year is last year,” Rangel said.

In addition to Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), will speak at the event. The current Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), will moderate.