By Susan Crabtree - 09/04/09 05:00 PM EDT
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has renewed his call for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
“When it comes to the relationship between the American people and those they elect to serve them, trust is everything,” Boehner wrote in a letter to Rangel sent Friday. “This is especially true at a difficult time such as this for our nation, when Americans are looking to their government for leadership and solutions, and finding both in short supply.
A Rangel spokesman said the ethics committee investigation that Rangel called for last year should be allowed to take its course without any prejudging from GOP leaders.
"Congress has a comprehensive, bipartisan process for reviewing any allegations made against a Member - the House Ethics Committee," the spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. "Chairman Rangel himself initiated the request for the Committee to review the allegations made against him. Any action by the Minority Leader or others to prejudge the outcome of that bipartisan process would unfairly undermine the work of the Ethics Committee."
Another Democratic aide said the bipartisan ethics process is working after it was broken for years under Republican control of Congress.
"It should not be undermined," the staffer said.
Boehner said he has long considered Rangel a friend and still does, but noted that friends are not infallible.
“And when mistakes are made, particularly in the course of public service, accountability is necessary,” he wrote. “Friendship does not trump our obligations to the offices we hold, or to the constituents we serve."
Boehner also warned Rangel not to allow himself to become an “emblem of disrespect” toward the public he serves.
“Show the American people that having their confidence in your leadership means more to you than having the opportunity to wield the power,” he wrote. “Set aside your gavel while the ethics committee works to resolve the questions that have been raised. I respectfully urge you to consider this course of action.”
Boehner first called on Rangel to give up the gavel while the ethics committee completes its investigation last year, when the first allegations against Rangel surfaced.
Last September, Boehner offered a motion that would force Rangel to give up his chairmanship while the ethics panel investigates the charges. The motion was tabled 226-176, with only the five Democrats on the committee voting “present” and eight Democrats not voting.
At the time, Rangel and Boehner traded angry barbs on the House floor about the motivation behind the minority leader’s actions.
Earlier this week, other Republicans began to turn up the heat on Rangel. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, called on Rangel to disclose his tax returns to demonstrate whether hundreds of thousand of dollars — if not millions — in newly reported personal assets were limited to his financial disclosure records or whether Rangel has been filing false returns with the IRS as well.
So far, Pelosi is standing by Rangel and has indicated that she will not take action against him unless the ethics committee finds him guilty of a violation or a prosecutor brings charges against him.
Newspapers across the country — including The Washington Post — this week also have renewed calls for Rangel to resign the post in the wake of reports that he amended his financial disclosure records after discovering that he had failed to report at least $650,000 in assets in 2007 alone.
Rangel called for the ethics probe last summer after the first negative reports appeared that he had failed on his financial disclosure forms to report $75,000 worth of rental income on a beach villa he owned in the Dominican Republic.
In the months since, the ethics investigation has expanded several times as more financial irregularities and possible ethics breaches have surfaced.
Rangel is accused of maintaining three rent-stabilized apartments in New York, improperly using his congressional letterhead to solicit donations for an education center bearing his name, providing a legislative favor for one of the major donors to the center, claiming three homes as primary residences and failing to pay property taxes on two vacant parcels of land in New Jersey. He also attended a trip to the Caribbean that may have violated House rules because of corporate involvement.
Rangel has denied any wrongdoing and has attributed the financial lapses to sloppiness.