Five days after he was admonished by the Ethics Committee for two corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean, ABC News and NBC News are reporting that New York Democrat Charlie Rangel will “temporarily” give up the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel tonight denied the reports, telling reporters on Capitol Hill that he remains chairman, though when asked if he would continue on the 79-year-old said, “I can’t make all those promises at my age.” His spokesman Matthew Beck when asked about the reports responded in an e-mail, “Nothing tonight.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told reporters Tuesday that the caucus will convene to determine Rangel’s fate though he didn’t say when.
Calls for Rangel to step aside mounted Tuesday with the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat, calling for his ouster. New Hampshire’s Paul Hodes, and Ohio’s Zach Space have also called for Rangel to give up Ways & Means, Congress’s top tax writing panel.
Rangel’s ethical woes inspired Vince Morgan, one of his former campaign directors, to challenge him in a primary. Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, has returned $1,000 Rangel gave to her campaign and others to whom he’s given are facing calls from opponents to return the money. And the White House this week hasn’t exactly defended Rangel.
Republicans have grasped Rangel’s ethical problems as evidence that Pelosi has not fulfilled her promise to “clean out the swamp.” Rep. John Carter, a Texas Republican, Tuesday introduced a privileged resolution which would strip Rangel of his chairmanship. Democrats, it seems, could beat him to it.