MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Now to Congress, where Republicans are trying to force a powerful Democrat to step down from his post as chairman of a committee. Charles Rangel is in his 20th term as New York congressman, and he's under scrutiny for ethics violations. He has already conceded he did not pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars in rental income.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook has the latest.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Here's how today's motion against congressman Charlie Rangel started. This is Texas Republican John Carter.
SEABROOK: Whereas the gentleman from New York, Charles B. Rangel, the fourth most senior member of the House of Representatives, serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a position of considerable power and influence within the House of Representatives...
SEABROOK: Carter then detailed pages and pages of allegations against the New York congressman: that Rangel hadn't disclosed a checking account and an investment account he holds, each worth at least a quarter of a million dollars; that he's benefited from special mortgage terms that amount to a gift.
SEABROOK: Whereas Representative Rangel's failure to disclose the aforementioned gifts and income on his personal financial disclosure statement violates House rules and federal law.
SEABROOK: Carter talked about an undeclared vacation home Rangel owns in the Dominican Republic, his questionable use of a rent-controlled apartment in New York City as a campaign office. Carter read bits and pieces of newspaper reports and editorials condemning Rangel. And Carter went on for more than 13 minutes before he came to the end of his resolution.
SEABROOK: Therefore, be it resolved that upon adoption of this resolution, Representative Rangel is hereby removed as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means.
SEABROOK: Democrats quickly moved to send all this back to the Ethics Committee, which is already investigating it. So, that's the end of that motion. The vote was 246 to 153. Nineteen members of Congress voted present. House Leader Steny Hoyer reiterated Democrats' position that the process is already working.
SEABROOK: The committee is doing its work. It is ongoing. It is thoroughly taking under consideration the matter that the chairman asked them to take under consideration, and we will await their report.
SEABROOK: Did you catch that irony? It was Rangel himself who asked the Ethics Committee to thoroughly investigate his financial disclosures and his actions. He says all those mistakes are unintentional. So, the effect of all this is pretty much nil in terms of procedure. The question is how it shakes out politically. This is the second time this year that Republicans have tried to force Rangel out of his chairmanship. They say Democrats aren't living up to their many campaign promises to clean up Congress. And last fall, the National Republican Campaign Committee tried to use Rangel as a political liability for Democrats in moderate districts, like Wisconsin's Steve Kagen.
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U: Steve Kegan found a friend in corrupt New York City congressman Charlie Rangel.
SEABROOK: And though it didn't work last year, Kagen did keep his seat. The allegations against Rangel have only gotten more serious and more complicated.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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