Davis calls on Rangel to give up tax chairmanship after ethics finding

Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) is the first Democratic lawmaker on the Ways and Means Committee and first member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to call on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to give up his chairmanship in the wake of an ethics committee admonishment.

Davis is running to replace Republican Bob Riley as governor of Alabama and appears to be an odds-on favorite to win the Democratic primary. But he faces a tough general-election contest.

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At a time when Americans’ opinions of Congress are at or near an all-time low, Davis is distancing himself from congressional colleagues and any perception of unethical activities.

"Rep. Rangel has had a long and distinguished career and I respect his leadership, but I believe Congress needs to do more to restore the public trust,” Davis said in a statement to The Hill. “An ethics committee admonishment is a serious event, and Rep. Rangel should do the right thing and step aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

Davis also said he is considering returning the $1,000 contribution Rangel made to Davis’s 2008 reelection campaign. He joins eight other Democrats in Congress who have called for or voted for Rangel to step aside from the chairmanship.

Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) added her voice to the resignation list Tuesday.

"With the House Ethics Committee's finding that Congressman Rangel violated the ban on corporate funded travel, I believe it would be most appropriate for Mr. Rangel to step aside as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee," she said in a statement.

Rangel's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday joined the ranks of Democrats unloading campaign contributions received from Rangel. Titus returned $1,000 she received from the embattled chairman this cycle, while Mitchell returned $28,000 from the 2006 and 2008 cycles.

On Monday, Mitchell called on Rangel to step down as chairman. He joined Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) and Gene Taylor (Miss.) in calling for Rangel to resign as chairman.

Titus and Mitchell joined six other Democrats who have decided to return Rangel’s political donations or give them to charity, including Reps. Bill Foster (Ill.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Niki Tsongas (Mass.) and Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.).

For more than a year and a half since ethics allegations first surfaced against Rangel, members of the CBC and Democratic lawmakers on the Ways and Means Committee have stood in solidarity behind the 20-term lawmaker.

Late last week, CBC support appeared unanimous as one after another member of the caucus voiced strong backing for the 40-year veteran of the House despite an ethics committee admonishment for improperly accepting reimbursement for trips in the Caribbean.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said Rangel should be respected for his strong service and should be considered innocent until proven guilty, which he did not believe the ethics committee ruling determined. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) called Rangel “a friend” and said he was standing by him despite the ethics committee action.

Republicans, however, are pouring on the pressure. They plan to offer a resolution calling on Rangel to resign as chairman of the tax-writing panel as early as Tuesday night. The last time they did so — in October — Taylor and Childers were the only Democrats to vote with the GOP.

This time, Democratic defections could reach double digits and embarrass Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders who have so far stood by Rangel.

The ethics committee found that Rangel violated House gift rules when he accepted reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean that were sponsored by corporations. House ethics rules Democrats passed in 2007 after they won the majority bar corporations that employ lobbyists from sponsoring travel that lasts more than one day.

Rangel has blamed his staff, claiming he was unaware of the corporate sponsors.

The panel is still scrutinizing other, more serious allegations against Rangel involving 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 failed to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, among others.

-- This story was updated at 7:15 p.m.

An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of money Rep. Mitchell has returned to Rangel.