Democrats last night said that the finding by the House Ethics Committee that Rep. Charles Rangel knowingly violated House rules when he accepted trips to the Caribbean is almost certain to lead to his "voluntary" resignation from the key tax-writing post he holds -- although just how "voluntary" his departure is is an open dispute.
Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, have said they'd await the committee's findings before moving against Rangel, who is well entrenched in Congress and has the support of his colleagues. Privately, Democratic leaders worried about the reaction to prematurely ousting a prominent African American committee chairman in midst of other Ethics Committee investigations into alleged misdoings by at least four other members of the black caucus. (Those members have been cleared, the AP reported.)
One Democratic House strategist, who consults with the leadership and works directly with several candidates, said that the Rangel news "loses us the House" because it provides Republicans with an effective talking point. This strategist has complained for months that the longer it took Pelosi to lance the boil, the shakier the House majority would become.
Rangel was cautious in reacting last night. As the Times reports, the report "comes at an important moment for Democrats, since they are trying to push ahead with their stalled health care measure and Mr. Rangel's committee would play a central role in the final process."
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