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Charlie Rangel: At 80, You Don't Start Over, You Continue

Charlie Rangel Awaits Censure Decision By House

hide captionU.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

Alex Wong/Getty

After suffering the rare congressional sanction of censure, Rep. Charlie Rangel sounded like anything but a broken, humiliated man when he spoke with Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep in an interview aired Thursday.

But the 20-term, New York Democrat with the distinctive gravelly voice has defined irrepressible pretty much his whole political career.

As he indicated in his response on the House floor after he was officially punished by the House for ethical lapses, including not paying taxes and misusing his official stationary and position, he's moving on.

Here's one Rangel exchange with Steve:

STEVE: You’ve lost your committee chairmanship, your party has lost its majority in the house and you’ve been censured by the House of Representatives. How do you start over after all that?

RANGEL: Well, I don’t know where you really start over. When you’re 80 years old, you don’t start over, you continue. And like every setback like most people have, you analyze what went wrong, you try to correct it and move forward.

Steve asked Rangel about a charge by a watchdog group that Rangel wrongly used his campaign funds to pay for his recent defense against House ethics charges.

After Rangel dodged the question by accusing the group of targeting him after he rose to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, Steve followed up, saying he didn't want to "dwell" on the issue but what about the charge?

Rangel sought to deflect the unpleasantness with a playful response, echoing Steve's choice of words and prompting one of Steve's trademark chortles.

RANGEL: I don't want to dwell on anything. All I know is my lawyers have told me we haven’t done a darn thing wrong that deviates from the law. So I don’t want to dwell on it but I’m not certain that you don’t want to dwell on it.

And, quite frankly, there are so many things I have to do today and this week, in terms of taxes, trying to get extended unemployment that I really want to concentrate on moving forward.

This led Steve to ask Rangel if he supported President Obama's compromise with congressional Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts to all the income of the nation's wealthiest taxpayers.

RANGEL: Not at this particular time. We haven’t been involved in the negotiation. The president clearly has spoken to some people on the other side. All we know is that in terms of getting support for extended unemployment compensation, the deficit is going to take a hell of a hit. And some of us believe that if we don’t cut a deal that really helps our country in terms of the deficit and taxes in this session, we will not be in a better position in two years when we have presidential and senatorial and House of Representative elections.

After a few more seconds building on this answer, the lawmaker was saved by the bells that announce floor votes. The congressman politely ended the interview to go vote. Rangel moved on.

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