Time to shape up

Ethics committee recommends censure for Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., leaves the House ethics committee room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. The committee recommended censure for Rangel, suggesting that the New York Democrat suffer the embarrassment of standing before his colleagues while receiving an oral rebuke by the speaker for financial and fundraising misconduct. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., leaves the House ethics committee room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. The committee recommended censure for Rangel, suggesting that the New York Democrat suffer the embarrassment of standing before his colleagues while receiving an oral rebuke by the speaker for financial and fundraising misconduct. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg) Harry Hamburg

The House ethics committee on Thursday recommended censure for longtime Rep. Charles Rangel, suggesting that the New York Democrat suffer the embarrassment of standing before his colleagues while receiving an oral rebuke by the speaker for financial and fundraising misconduct.

Censure is the most serious congressional discipline short of expulsion. The House, which could change the recommended discipline by making it more serious or less serious, probably will consider the recommendation after Thanksgiving.

The ethics committee voted 9-1 to recommend censure and that Rangel pay any taxes he owes on income from a vacation villa in the Dominican Republic. The five Democrats and five Republicans on the panel deliberated for about three hours behind closed doors.

Earlier, at a sanctions hearing, the 20-term congressman apologized for his misconduct but said he was not a crooked politician out for personal gain. He was in the House hearing room when the ethics committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, announced the recommendation.

Rangel said, “I hope you can see your way clear to indicate any action taken by me was not with the intention of bringing any disgrace on the House or enriching myself personally.”

The ethics committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, had recommended censure for Rangel. The ethics committee could have opted for lighter punishments, such as a reprimand, a fine or a report deploring the congressman’s behavior.

Rangel, 80, ended the sanctions hearing with an emotional plea to salvage his reputation.

Before speaking, Rangel sat for several minutes trying to compose himself. He placed his hands over his eyes and then his chin, before he slowly stood up and said in a gravelly voice that was barely audible: “I don’t know how much longer I have to live.”

Facing the committee members, he asked them to “see your way clear to say, ’This member was not corrupt.”’

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