By Susan Crabtree - 10/07/09 06:41 PM EDT
Democrats thwarted a Republican attempt to dethrone Rep. Charles Rangel
(D-N.Y.) from the top post of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday
In a mostly party-line vote of 243-156 with 19 members voting "present," Democrats successfully passed a procedural motion referring the matter to the House ethics committee — a move that sank a GOP effort to remove Rangel from the powerful tax-writing panel.
Carter, a former judge, said the lack of any action by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or the Democratic Caucus forced the GOP to call on Rangel to relinquish the chairmanship of the House committee that oversees the IRS and the tax code.
Rangel initiated the ethics committee investigation when allegations first surfaced last summer that he failed to report $75,000 worth of rental income on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. Since then, other accusations have surfaced and the ethics panel has twice expanded its investigation.
Among other charges, the panel is looking into whether Rangel improperly used his congressional letterhead to solicit donations for an education center bearing his name, which would violate House rules, and whether he broke House rules against improper gifts by accepting an interest-free loan on the villa. During the August recess, Rangel amended his financial disclosure forms to show at least $600,000 in income previously unreported.
This was the third time Republicans introduced a resolution to force Rangel from the panel but the first time any Democrats voted with the GOP to remove him. Republicans touted the votes of Mississippi Democratic Reps. Gene Taylor and Travis Childers as a significant shift in support. Republicans also introduced a resolution that would have censured Rangel in late July last year, but no Democrats voted with Republicans on that effort, and it failed in a lopsided partisan vote.
“These votes show that support for the Democratic Leaders’ decision to sweep this matter under the rug is starting to crack,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Last week, a Rangel spokesman labeled the GOP effort a “partisan stunt” and argued that the ethics committee should be allowed to work its will and finish its investigation.
"This is nothing more than a partisan stunt to distract from the GOP's lack of ideas to improve America's healthcare system and help our economy recover,” the spokesman said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had said the ethics committee should be allowed to do its work unfettered.
“We will wait for its report,” he said. "To do anything else would be premature. I, or someone, will move to table the resolution.”