Pelosi sticks with Rangel, notes ethics committee ‘did not take action’

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Friday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

However, the ethics panel stated that "Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences." Pelosi later said Rangel did not willfully break the rules.

Pelosi stressed that she anticipates the ethics committee will weigh in on the other matters for which Rangel is being scrutinized, including charges that he improperly used his office to raise money for an academic center at City College of New York that is named after him and allegations that he failed to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic


“There’s more to Mr. Rangel’s situation and I look forward to hearing [from] the ethics committee on that,” Pelosi said.

The Speaker rejected the notion that failing to strip Rangel of his gavel would be tantamount to going back on her promise to “drain the swamp” of congressional ethical lapses.

“I thank them for taking this action and I hope they will have other actions soon. But they did not take action against him, they just said he did not knowingly break the rules,” she said.

“But we’ll just see what happens next,” the Speaker reiterated. “If this were the end of it, that would be one thing, but there’s obviously more to come and we’ll see what happens with that."

An ethical cloud has followed Rangel for more than a year, and Thursday's statement by the House ethics panel that Rangel violated House rules comes as Democrats are prepping themselves for difficult mid-term elections in November.

Tensions over the election became clear Friday as some Democrats began to break ranks with Rangel.

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), said Rangel should step down from his chairmanship.

"I honor and respect Charlie Rangel’s lifetime of service as a soldier serving our country in Korea and as a public servant,” he said in a statement. “But Washington must be held to the highest ethical standards. Regrettably, with the finding of ethics violations, Charlie Rangel should step down from his leadership position.”

Rep. Mike Quigley, a freshman Democrat who took over the seat previously held by Rahm Emanuel, also said Rangel should give up his gavel in the wake of the ethics committee action.

"Yes, I do believe Mr. Rangel should step aside as chairman,” he said. “His position is simply too important.”

Both parties should work to improve ethics in Washington and both have a long way to go, Quigley added.

“There are no sacred cows, and neither party can claim purity,” he said. “If we’re really going to drain the swamp, this can’t be a partisan issue we use to attack one another. We’ve got real work to do here, and it’s going to take teamwork, not a food-fight.”

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), who voted against tabling a GOP resolution last year calling for Rangel to be removed as chairman, also has said Rangel should step down from his chairmanship.

This story was updated at 3:09 p.m.