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Dems shoot down GOP attempt to punish Rangel

Democrats shot down a second GOP attempt in as many months to punish Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) for a series of alleged ethics violations. 

Democrats easily tabled a motion House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE (R-Ohio) offered that was aimed at forcing Rangel to give up his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee while the ethics committee investigates the charges. It also would have ordered the ethics committee to establish an investigative subcommittee to look into the matter. The motion went down, 226-176, with only the five Democrats on the ethics panel voting “present” and eight Democrats not voting.

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Only five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats on the measure, far fewer than the 25 who voted with Democrats in late July to jettison another BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE motion that would have censured the powerful chairman. Last week Boehner warned his colleagues not to vote against leadership on ethics matters.

Republicans who voted to table Boehner’s resolution are: Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), who lost his primary and will retire at the end of this Congress, as well as Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Jim Ramstad (Minn.) and Ron Paul (Texas). This time around, six Republicans also voted present and 12 didn’t vote.

The ethics committee launches investigative subcommittees at the beginning of a formal probe of a member. The panel handles other more minor ethics questions by reviewing them and issuing advisory opinions. So far in the Rangel matter, the committee has only issued a statement saying it was “reviewing” the matter leading to criticism that it was not taking the allegations piling up around Rangel seriously.

Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenBottom line Texas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress MORE (D-Texas), who became acting chairman of the ethics committee when its former chair Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) passed away in August, sought to quell any questions. He said the panel is scheduled to meet next week to begin investigating Rangel, as the New York Democrat has requested it to do.

“It is my intent to recommend to Ranking Member Hastings and the Committee that we honor Chairman Rangel's request,” Green said in a statement. “We have a Standards Committee meeting posted for Wednesday, September 24.”

The resolution listed a number of allegations of violations of House ethics rules as well as federal tax law. Specifically, it focused on Rangel’s admission that, since 1988, he failed to report on his tax returns or financial disclosure reports $75,000 in rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. It also argued that the interest-free nature of the villa’s mortgage amounted to a violation of the House gift ban.

In addition, the resolution highlighted contents of a letter Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) sent to Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) in 2006 when she asked that he resign his seat on Ways and Means because she wanted to maintain “high ethical standards.” Jefferson faces 16 counts of corruption; his trial is set to begin in December.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which has been calling on Democratic candidates to give back any Rangel political donations, quickly seized on the lopsided vote and issued a release.

“While the financial market is in peril, Democrats are voting to prop up an ethically challenged congressman who has not only circumvented the very tax hikes he has written, but who has admitted he is incapable of keeping his own financial house in order,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “Nancy Pelosi’s once-proclaimed ‘most ethical Congress in history’ has officially become a laughingstock.”

Democratic Party officials labeled Republicans hypocrites and cited reports that the NRCC had taken donations from convicted criminals.

“John Boehner’s re-brand of his party looks a lot like the old brand - desperate, dishonest hypocrites,” said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.