Some Republicans see DeLay tactics behind attempted ouster of Rangel

When it comes to determining Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) fate, some Republicans don’t believe a turnabout is fair play, even if it’s good party politics.

Several of the six Republicans who didn’t support their party’s resolution to remove Rangel from his committee chairmanship said it was because it reminded them of a maneuver Democrats used against then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

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“They tried the same type of maneuvers against Tom DeLay when we were in power,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). “I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.”

Jones also said his decision to vote with Democrats was affected by his deep Christian faith.

“I don’t believe in beating a man or woman when they’re down,” Jones said. “I’m a man of faith.”

If the ethics committee finds that Rangel has broken House rules or laws after it finishes the investigation, that’s when he should seriously consider giving up his gavel, Jones said.

Rangel, a prolific fundraiser, has directed most of his largesse to House Democrats, but Jones is one of two Republicans he has given money to (Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., is the other), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Last week Rangel survived a GOP attempt to oust him from his Ways and Means chairmanship while the ethics committee wraps up its work and determines whether he should be punished for a tangled web of alleged ethics, tax and financial violations.

After the vote, Republicans heralded the defection to their side of two Democrats, Rep. Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, both of Mississippi. But Rangel’s Democratic allies point to the number of Republicans who voted with Democrats to refer the resolution to the ethics committee — a step that effectively killed it — as a far more significant measure of Rangel’s support.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) also cited DeLay’s experience when explaining his vote on the Rangel resolution.

DeLay stepped down from his position as majority leader after he was indicted on charges of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme in late September 2005. After a series of bad press reports, he announced that he would not run again. He has never been convicted and is still fighting the four-year-old case against him.

In the years leading up to the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered 11 privileged resolutions relating to alleged GOP ethical lapses. One of the resolutions targeted DeLay because it directed the ethics committee to immediately investigate the misconduct by members and their staff connected to the criminal activity of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Republicans defeated all of Pelosi’s privileged resolutions.

“I saw what happened to Tom DeLay, that drive to punish him — someone who had worked his whole life in politics — before he was convicted,” Rohrabacher recalled. “It was unfair for Tom DeLay then, and it’s unfair for Rangel now.”

Rohrabacher’s support for fellow politicians under fire also may be affected by his longtime friendship with Abramoff.

Rohrabacher had strong ties to Abramoff and traveled with him on a trip to the Marshall Islands that came under scrutiny at the height of the scandal. In March 2006, following Abramoff’s guilty plea of fraud in the SunCruz case, Rohrabacher was the sole member of Congress who wrote to the presiding judge to urge leniency in sentencing.

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Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), Rangel’s home-state colleague, said that he thinks it would set a “dangerous precedent” to punish a lawmaker by taking away a chairmanship before the ethics committee makes a decision.

The other three Republicans to vote with Democrats were: Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Tim Murphy (Pa.) and Don Young (Alaska). Young has faced his own ethics allegations regarding earmarks and their link to campaign contributions, and Murphy’s Southwestern Pennsylvania district is adjacent to that of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), another lawmaker who has received recent scrutiny for earmarks he’s doled out to companies and the campaign contributions he’s received from them.

A majority of the 12 Republicans who voted present are either members of the ethics committee or the investigative subcommittee reviewing the Rangel allegations or are members of a pool of 10 lawmakers who could be called on if the ethics committee launches additional investigative subcommittees this year to review new allegations against any member of Congress.

GOP Reps. Jo Bonner (Ala.), Mike Conaway (Texas), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Gregg Harper (Miss.) and Michael McCaul (Texas) are all members of the ethics panel. In addition, Bonner serves on the Rangel investigative subcommittee along with Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.). Bonner, Green and Hastings voted present on the resolution, while Scott was the only member of an ethics-related entity that voted with Democrats to refer the resolution calling for Rangel to resign his chairmanship to the ethics committee.

While the identity of members of the ethics pool is not widely known, Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) told The Hill that they were pool members and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) acknowledged that his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), was a pool member. All voted present on the Rangel resolution.

Several of the seven Republicans who didn’t vote at all also had good reasons.

Rep. Michael Turner (Ohio) missed the vote because he was making a speech, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (Texas) was undergoing surgery and Mario Diaz-Balart was returning from a trip to Honduras.



CORRECTION (October 19, 2009): Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has not received any political contributions from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). The report was based on an incorrect FEC filing. Incorrect information appeared in an Oct. 16 story.

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