After a series of ethics inquiries threatened to mar his more than 40-year career, New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, head of the New York Congressional delegation, announced March 3 that he would temporarily leave his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
“I have, this morning, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work,” the congressman said during a press conference.
In a statement, Rangel’s former campaign director and current representative for New York City’s 15th District, Morgan S. Vincent, praised the longtime politician’s decision to vacate the chairmanship.
“I commend Congressman Rangel for his decision to step down as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee while the House Ethics Committee continues its investigation,” said Morgan, who is planning a bid for Rangel’s congressional seat.
“This is a critical election year for the Democratic party. Speaker Pelosi has promised to restore the highest ethical standards in Washington and this is a positive step toward that goal,” said Morgan. “I always had faith that Mr. Rangel would act responsibly in this matter.”
Deneen Borelli, a full-time fellow with the Project 21 Black leadership network, also commended Rangel’s departure, but was far harsher in her analysis of the New York constituent.
“Because of the serious allegations surrounding Rangel’s unethical behavior, the question of whether or not he should step down has gone on far too long,” Borelli said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, elected officials such as Charlie Rangel have operated under a sense of entitlement and represented their interests and not those of their constituents. During his reign, Rangel has profited while his constituents in Harlem, NY have suffered.”
The House ethics committee admonished Rangel for breaching Congressional gift regulations by taking several trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that were sponsored by corporate organizations, according to the New York Times.
In addition, the ethics board is looking into accusations of Rangel’s inappropriate fundraising tactics, unpaid federal taxes and his use of apartments provided by a Manhattan-based real estate developer.
California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Rangel has been an effective chairman and regrets he is making the step at such a critical juncture in the nation.
“We recognize that Chairman Rangel did not want this matter to be distractions from our efforts to create jobs and revitalize our economy. However, we remain concerned about the precedent this sets for the House of Representatives that the political climate is such that a member would feel the need to step aside, even temporarily, during an ongoing proceeding,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to the conclusion of the investigation and to him resuming his position as chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.”