Is Charles Rangel Getting Off Easy?

The troubled lawmaker faces a public scolding on the House floor. Should he have been expelled?

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This week, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel was found guilty of multiple ethics violations including "failing to report rental income, improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress." He's now facing a formal censure on the House floor, which will likely be voted on after Thanksgiving. The censure is Congress's strictest form of punishment outside of expulsion. But does it simply amount to a slap on the wrist? Here's what pundits are saying:

The sad, wrenching spectacle we saw yesterday of a grand old man, crumpled in an armchair, his face broken, weeping into his hands, was just another dramatic display of Charlie Rangel's unstoppable charm...

This roguish charm is a signature of Charlie Rangel. And it is his greatest sin. It is the root of a colossal hubris that has blinded him from realizing this trial is not about him. It is about the public trust in an institution -- of which he has been among the most powerful leaders -- that takes money away from us that we have worked to earn in the name of public good.

It is an awesome responsibility, and he has made a mockery of it.

[It's] a meaningless verbal scolding. He gets to keep his job, his pension, etc. Michelle Malkin live-blogged the hearings, complete with Rangel claiming he had been “smeared” and John Lewis calling Rangel a civil rights hero.

  • This Is Actually a Pretty Fair Decision, writes libertarian Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway:

While some will criticize censure as a slap on the wrist, it’s far more severe than the reprimand that Rangel was no doubt hoping for. Moreover, it’s not clear that the evidence against Rangel rises to the level needed to justify expulsion. Unlike James Traficant, for example, there are no criminal charges pending against Rangel at this point. Therefore, it’s not entirely surprising that the committee went this route. Additionally, if Rangel is censured, it’s unlikely that he’d regain his spot as ranking member on the Ways & Means Committee as well as much of the influence that he once wielded on Capitol Hill. Whether that leads him to step aside is something only time will tell.

  • This Was No Wrist-Slap writes the New York Post editorial board. Still, they think Rangel should resign:

Make no mistake. This was not the widely expected wrist-slap. If the House goes along with the recommendation, Rangel will be required to stand silently before all 434 members while his transgressions are spelled out and he is formally rebuked by the House speaker. Imagine the humiliation he will feel. Deservedly so... To be sure, outright expulsion was unlikely; that penalty has only been imposed five times in the House's history...

Rangel has rarely done the right thing -- since, that is, leaving the Army after creditable combat service in Korea. He can do the right thing now.

He can spare himself further humiliation, and the House additional agony, with a simple letter of resignation. Pity it had to end this way. But it's over.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.