Until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gavel falls, Congressman Charles Rangel’s post as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is secure. And Pelosi has informed the press that she will make no decision until the ethics committee completes its investigation of Rangel, which has been going for more than a year.
Pelosi is getting heat from rankled Republicans who insist on Rangel being removed, given his tax problems. Rumors are afloat that Rangel may be considering stepping down in order to avoid his situation being a distraction to the ongoing health care reform debate.
But such is not the case, according to a Rangel spokesperson.
“The congressman views this as nothing more than a partisan attack by the Republicans to distract from the pressing health care reform issue,” the spokesperson told the Amsterdam News. “Let’s look at this resolution for what it really is-a highly partisan effort designed to undermine the important work in Congress on health care reform. It’s also an attempt to circumvent House rules, which provide for a comprehensive, bipartisan ethics committee process for reviewing matters such as these. The Congressman himself initiated the request for the Committee to review the issues and the Members should let the process work as established by the rules of the House.”
Rangel, 79, who is completing his 20th term as a representative from Harlem, refused to deal with a surge from the press demanding he speak to the Republican siege.
No stranger to controversy and heightened media scrutiny himself. Gov. David Paterson spoke to the Amsterdam News, at press time on Wednesday, to counter the suggestion that some are positioning him to run for Rangel’s seat should he step aside. “This is just another in a series of bogus rumors designed to turn information into disinformation,” Paterson charged. “Rumors like I am looking for another job and that the Lt. Governor is waiting for me to leave and even crazier fantasies are being churned out every week to assuage the public that I am not interested in running for office.
Meanwhile in reality a governor across the river who had 19% approval and was left for dead has now taken the lead in the race in N.J.
Gov. John Corizine who was 17 points down two months ago is now one point ahead. The message to me is that you don’t give up because you have low poll numbers. You don’t give up because you have to make tough decisions. And you don’t give up because duplicitous people who represent the interests of others continue to spread inaccurate rumors.
Congressman Rangel has a right to an examination of his conduct by the appropriate committee and not by the political expediency of his adversaries.”
At a recent press conference on the Upper West Side called by Rangel to discuss the economic stimulus package on local transit projects, the congressman deflected the questions hurled at him by the press.
“The press conference was called for a specific purpose and normally, the people that called for it like for those questions to be geared toward why the press conference was called,” Rangel said. “I assume that there would be other questions concerning a different subject, and relying on your good faith, your integrity and your professionalism, I assume that you would respect that.”
Among those pols coming to Rangel’s aid was Rep. Eliot Engel, who represents a New York district that borders Rangel’s and is not disturbed that his colleague continues to function as a chair.
“He’s got a role to play,” Engel told the press. “Charlie is not one to not get into the fray.”
Nor is he one to run from a fight. When he was assailed with charges of tax evasion and other irregularities, Rangel himself invited the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was wrongdoing.
At the end of the press conference, Rangel was asked how he felt about a Texan Republican’s intention to force a vote on a resolution requiring him to relinquish his post.
“I’m disappointed,” he replied.