Charlie Rangel’s War

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Tomorrow former Ways & Means chairman Charlie Rangel is scheduled to be put on trial but the House ethics committee. The hearing could last months, going well into the fall as Rangel tries to prove his innocence, even through a subcommittee has already ruled he likely broke House rules. The AP and New York Post this morning are reporting that Rangel is in last ditch efforts to settle the case and avoid the public trial. More likely Nancy Pelosi is sitting on top of him, twisting his arm until he cries “Uncle!” and acquiesces to a settlement.

Rangel’s statements in recent days have shown a man willing to go all the way to prove his innocence, even if it means a public spectacle that Dems can ill afford so close to the midterms. This is, after all, the only way to clear his name and regain his Ways & Means gavel.

On background, most Dem aides will tell you that this is wishful thinking: the gavel has long been out of his grasp. They would like to see this issue resolved quickly and quietly with some kind of reprimand for Rangel and an apology. This way he gets, at least, to keep his seat.

As I reported last week, there are two possible paths to take here: Traficant or DeLay. The Traficant path leads to likely expulsion from the House if the committee does indeed find that Rangel violated House ethics rules. Already moderate Dems are starting to call for him to resign. The DeLay route skips the trial and goes right to censure and apology. The Congressional Black Caucus is defending Rangel, saying every member has the right to prove his/her innocence even if it comes at an inconvenient time for the rest of the caucus.

The clock is ticking with the hearing set for tomorrow. We shall see who wins out: Rangel’s stubbornness or Pelosi’s sheer will.