Why Pelosi can’t just get rid of Rangel

February 26, 2010


Suddenly, it looks like Nancy Pelosi will have to confront her Charlie Rangel problem after all.

For more than a year, the House Speaker has managed to buy herself time every time Republicans or the media (or both) have made noise about Rangel and his ethical issues. The House ethics committee is looking at it, she would say, and I won’t do or say anything until they report back.

But now there’s word that the slow-moving panel has found Rangel, the 79-year-old chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, guilty of breaking House rules by taking a corporate-funded Caribbean junket.

Already the calls for his ouster from Ways and Means have begun. Republicans have been shrieking for Rangel’s head for months, rubbing Nancy Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress in history” pledge in her face, and now even some Democrats – mindful of the election-year albatross that Rangel represents – are joining the chorus. “Time to strip Rangel of his W&M chairmanship,” the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas tweeted tonight.

Let’s be clear: Pelosi would like to see Rangel go. Railing against him – a tax cheat running the tax-writing committee! – is a political goldmine for the GOP (which has already tried to embarrass House Democrats by forcing floor votes on Rangel’s gavel status). But prying him from Ways and Means is trickier than you’d think.

Her first option is to convince Rangel to give up his post voluntarily. Good luck with that. Rangel is a House lifer. He won his seat in 1970, part of a generation of African-American congressmen who decided they’d have better luck climbing the internal House ladder than trying to run for higher office in their home states. The seniority system ensured his slow, steady rise and when – after 12 long years of GOP rule – Democrats won back the House in 2006, Rangel, at 76 years old, found himself in one of Washington’s most powerful perches.

Read it all.

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