House Censures Rangel for Ethics Violations

Rep. Charlie Rangel was censured for violating 11 congressional ethics rules, the first time the House of Representatives took such a harsh step against one of their own, in decades.

After failing to get the punishment downgraded, the House overwhelmingly voted to punish the Harlem Democrat 333 to 79 with a censure.

The move required Rangel, a 20-term incumbent and decorated Korean War veteran, to stand on the floor of the House while Speaker Nancy Pelosi read aloud the resolution admonishing Rangel.

"I leave here knowing I'm an honest guy,” Rangel said after censure. "When history of this has been written, that people would recognize the vote for censure was a very, very, very political vote"

Defiantly, he added "I'm not going to be judged by this Congress" today, but rather, by the totality of his 40-year career.

He added, "Compared to where I've been, I haven't had a bad day since," he said, referring to the near-fatal injury he suffered in Korea, which he's often referenced during the 2-year investigation.

Rangel’s supporters tried to downgrade the punishment from a censure - the harshest punishment short of expulsion - into a reprimand, which is tantamount to being sent a desecrate letter about slight misbehaviors.

Rangel’s allies, nearly all of them Democrats, sought to portray Rangel's wrongdoing, as slight missteps of complicated tax and internal house rules about letterhead, but not part of any scheme to enrich himself or defraud the public.

Critics, all of them Republicans, spoke about the need to "restore" the public's trust in the Congress, and that easing Rangel's punishment would further erode that trust.

One Republican who spoke in defense of Rangel was Peter King of Long Island, who praised Rangel for his military service. King also said expulsion was like the death penalty, and censure was equal to life in prison, portraying it as too harsh for Rangel's admitted wrongdoing.

A bipartisan Ethics Committee found Rangel violated House rules banning members from using official resources - including staff and letterhead - in seeking contributions for a public college looking to build a school in his honor. Rangel's failure to pay taxes on income he earned on oversee rental property, plus incomplete financial disclosure forms, were also cited in the Ethics Committee report.