Rangel steps down

The good news is that ethically challenged New York Congressman Charles Rangel is finally relinquishing the gavel as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

He maintains the move is only temporary, but it’s not at all clear his colleagues will vote him back into the job even if he is cleared of all the ethics charges against him.

More than a few of the Democrats in Congress who publicly voiced their support for Rangel over the past year may now be wondering what that support cost them. Some have been distancing themselves from Rangel and returning contributions they received from him.

That’s understandable, given the current state of affairs in Rangel-land.

Last week, the House Ethics Committee determined that Rangel improperly accepted trips to the Caribbean from corporations that could be affected by actions of his committee. Rangel blamed the problem on staffers. Also, the Ethics Committee is still reviewing evidence indicating that the chairman of the top tax committee in Congress intentionally hid income he received from rental units he owns in New York and the Caribbean. The committee is also investigating charges that Rangel failed to disclose $500,000 in assets that he was required to list on his annual financial disclosure forms.

To add to his troubles, Rangel, who has held the same seat in Congress for more than 40 years, now faces his most serious election challenge in 15 years — from a fellow Democrat.

We’ll never know what kind of backroom arm-twisting Democratic Party leaders engaged in to convince Rangel to give up his chairmanship. But it’s clear Democrats are worried about the political implications of the Rangel scandal in the middle of what is already shaping up to be a difficult election year for the party.

The Daily Sentinel has argued for more than a year that Rangel should be stripped of his chairmanship while he was under investigation for ethics violations. Now that he has voluntarily stepped down, we hope the Ethics Committee doesn’t suddenly lose its enthusiasm for pursuing the remainder of the charges against Rangel.

Democrats, Republicans and independents should all be outraged at a powerful congressman who apparently thumbed his nose at the laws the rest of us are expected to follow.


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