House Votes To Censure Longtime Rep. Rangel

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Veteran New York Democrat Charlie Rangel was censured by his colleagues in the House on Thursday for ethics violations that include tax evasion and abuse of rent control laws in New York City.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

GUY RAZ, host:

And I'm Guy Raz.

Earlier today, the House of Representatives voted to censure 40-year veteran Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, for violating House ethics rules. Rangel then stood in the well while the charges against him were read aloud by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): ...and that Representative Rangel pay restitution to the appropriate taxing authorities or the U.S. Treasury for any unpaid estimated taxes outlined in Exhibit 066...

RAZ: It was the first time any member of the House have been subjected to the public shaming ritual since 1983.

The vote to censure was 333 in favor and 79 opposed, with most of Rangel's fellow Democrats joining all but two of the chamber's Republicans in voting for censure. The House had earlier rejected an attempt to lessen the punishment to a written reprimand.

NPR's Allison Keyes was in the chamber and sent us this report.

ALLISON KEYES: Rangel offered the same defense on the House floor today that he has for months, admitting that he made serious mistakes but insisting that he was being held to a more stringent standard than other House members who have had ethics issues in the past.

He returned repeatedly to the committee's finding that it had no evidence he tried to enrich himself by his actions.

Representative CHARLES RANGEL (Democrat, New York): No evidence that there was an intention on my part to evade my responsibility, whether in taxes or whether in financial disclosures. And there's absolutely no excuse for my omission for my responsibility to obey those rules. I take full credit for the responsibility of that. I brought it on myself, but I still believe that this body has to be guided by fairness.

KEYES: Rangel was convicted of 11 ethics violations including failing to pay taxes on income from a Dominican Republic vacation villa for 17 years and filing misleading public financial reports.

New York Republican Congressman Peter King rose in Rangel's defense and drew a few chuckles when he said he doesn't agree with Rangel on any issue, but he thinks his fellow New Yorker should have better treatment.

King said none of Rangel's actions were hidden, including the office the Democrats' campaign operated at a rent-controlled apartment and the fund-raising efforts he made on behalf of the city college facility that bears his name.

Here's Congressman King.

Representative PETER KING (Republican, New York): Let us apply the same standard of justice to Charlie Rangel that has been applied to everyone else and which all of us would want to apply to ourselves. With that, I respectfully urge a vote against censure. I yield back the balance of my time.

KEYES: Rangel supporters argue that previous censure cases had involved criminal acts or sexual misconduct, but Ethics Committee member Jo Bonner, an Alabama Republican, said the panel's recommendation of censure had not been made lightly.

Representative JO BONNER (Republican, Alabama): It is a sad day for sure, Mr. Speaker. But now the entire House has a responsibility to join the Ethics Committee in rendering your judgment.

KEYES: After the public shaming before the House tonight, Rangel faces no further punishment. He was easily reelected to a 21st term in Congress in November.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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