Ethics panel struggling to set trial dates

The ethics committee is struggling to come up with a schedule for the public trials of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

After separate investigations, the panel charged Rangel and Waters with violating House rules. Both rebuffed attempts to negotiate punishments, choosing to opt for public trials of the charges against them. Watchdogs are expecting those trials to take place after the elections so the ethics committee can avoid any accusations of politicizing the ethics process.

When asked about the trial schedule, Waters said she would have a comment at the right time.

Rangel is upset that the committee is taking so long to let him know when his trial will take place. In fact, he would like the trial to take place before the November election so he can have a chance to clear his name.

“It’s unfair for them not to do it before the election,” he told a reporter for Fox News, adding that he hoped to hear something about the schedule by the end of the week.

Rangel won his primary race last month, despite a strong Democratic challenge and ethics cloud hanging over his candidacy. Before the vote, he criticized the ethics committee in an interview with The Hill.

“There are so many members they can destroy by just doing nothing,” Rangel said. “If I was a first-termer, it’s all over.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the ethics committee involved in the negotiations, said the committee is busy trying to hash out an agreement on a start date for both trials but have yet to reach a decision.

“We hope to have a schedule before [the October] adjournment,” he said.

McCaul and other members of the ethics committee on Thursday were engaged in intense discussions about the trial dates in the panel’s basement offices.

-- This story was updated at 3:28 p.m.