The fate of Rep. Charlie Rangel as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee currently rests in the hands of the House Ethics Committee, which is looking into several charges of unethical behavior against the New York Democrat.
That at least is the stance of Nancy Pelosi who has been besieged by calls from GOP officials and good government groups for Rangel to be removed from his post. So far the Speaker of the House has kept her cards remarkably close to her chest, saying only that she will wait for the Ethics Committee report. But while repeating that line on Monday evening, she also said that she did not foresee Rangel stepping down.
"As you know, the particulars of Chairman Rangel's case are before the Ethics Committee now," Pelosi told a pool of reporters in New York City. "We had been assured early on that they would have their work finished by the end of this Congress, which is just a few more weeks. And I think Mr. Rangel, who is a Korean War hero, who has been a great public servant in our country, deserves the opportunity to have his case heard and resolved by the Ethics Committee. And that, as I say, is not a long way off. It's just a matter of weeks."
Would Rangel lose his post after the Ethics Committee report, Pelosi was asked. We have to wait to see "what the committee has to say," she replied, before adding: "I don't foresee that."
The remark can be interpreted as a presumption of innocence on Rangel's behalf or, for that matter, a reaffirmation that the besieged Democrat has his party's support. Surely it is welcome news for the congressman. The New York Times reported last week that Rangel helped secure a multimillion-dollar tax loophole for an oil company roughly around the time the that very same company pledged $1 million to a Rangel charity.
Rangel's problems, however, go deeper than this one incident. The Times also wrote that he had failed to pay taxes on a beachfront house he owns in the Dominican Republican. Even earlier the paper reported that the congressman was renting four apartments in Harlem for below market rates.
The drip-drip-drip of bad news has been described as a potential "death by a thousand cuts," but sources on the Hill say Rangel plans to fight to keep his post. The Ethics Committee is expected to issue its report sometime in January. As of now, he has the backing of the Democratic higher-ups.
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