Why Charlie Rangel stepped down as Ways and Means chairman
New York Representative Charlie Rangel has stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee following more than a year of calls for his resignation.
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Republicans lost a bid to remove Rangel from his chairmanship on Oct. 7, 2009, after all but one Democrat voted to derail the motion. But aides on both sides of the aisle say that a similar motion GOP leaders had planned to introduce Wednesday, would have drawn considerably more Democratic votes. At least a dozen Democrats have publicly called on Rangel to step down.Skip to next paragraph
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As recently as Tuesday night, Rangel said that he planned to stay on as committee chair. In a hastily called press briefing this morning, he changed course. “In view of the fact that my chairmanship is bringing so much attention to the press, and in order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections, I have this morning sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the ethics committee completes its work,” he said.
Republicans challenged the claim that Rangel had a voluntary leave of absence and could simply step back into the chairmanship.
“There is nothing in the rules of the House that refers to a temporary resignation. You either resign or you don’t,” said Republican leader John Boehner in a press briefing Wednesday.
House officials described Rangel's move as a resignation. “The House accepted his resignation. Mr. Rangel resigned as chairman,” said House
parliamentarian John Sullivan. The acting chair of the Ways and Means Committee is Rep. Pete Stark (D) of California, the No. 2 Democrat on the panel.
Corruption allegations against the majority party fueled the Republican victory in 1994, when Republicans took back the House for the first time in 47 years. Ethics was also a rallying cry for Democrats, who won back the House in 2006 after scandals involving mainly Republicans and then-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democratic leader Pelosi ran on a campaign to "clean up the House."
Rangel defenders are concerned that his resignation sets a troubling precedent. "We recognize that Chairman Rangel did not want this matter to be distractions from our efforts to create jobs and revitalize our economy. However, we remain concerned about the precedent this sets for the House of Representatives that the political climate is such that a member would feel the need to step aside, even temporarily, during an ongoing proceeding," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D) of California, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a statement Wednesday.