The committee is so powerful that its members are precluded from participation in other congressional committees. As it is, because of the wide jurisdiction that it has over finances, being on the Ways and Means Committee pretty much assures that its committee members have a say in all other policies. With all things considered, the only thing more powerful than membership on the Ways and Means Committee is being the chairman of it. Such power should not be held by just anyone. It should be held by someone who is, at least responsible and at most, above reproach.
Given the nature of human beings, being above reproach may be difficult but what isn’t hard would be having a chairman who could appear as being above reproach. That is why current circumstances are so troubling these days.
These days, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel and Charlie is not exactly a figure who instills the type of public trust that one would normally like to see in his very powerful position. In fact, in the case of Charlie Rangel, it is just the opposite. He is one of the least trusted members there is in Congress today. That’s a pretty hard title to earn among a group of people, who as whole, are slightly less trusted than used cars salesmen, but for many reasons Charlie has earned that distinction.
Among the reasons for the lack of trust that exists in the 19 term Congressman are;
• Hundreds of thousands of dollars in income that he failed to report on his taxes or Congressional disclosure form
• Rangel worked to preserve a lucrative tax break for an oil-drilling company while at the same time, the company’s C.E.O. was pledging $1 million to a City College of New York educational center to be named in Rangel’s honor
• Used his Congressional office letterhead to solicit donors for the C.C.N.Y. educational center.
• Even though New York City and state regulations prevent the use of rent-controlled apartments for purposes other than as a primary residence, Rangel rents four rent-stabilized apartments in the same Harlem building, at well below market rates and uses them for campaign office space.
• Rangel flouted rules barring the storage of vehicles in the Congressional parking garage for more than 45 days and requirements that any vehicles there have license plates and a valid House parking sticker. For years the Congressman illegally stored his Mercedes Benz there.
• Rangel broke House rules on corporate-funded travel by taking took trips to the Caribbean that were funded and organized by an organization called the Carib News Foundation.
That last charge is particularly ironic. In 1970 Charlie Rangel defeated the man who previously held this Congressional seat. That man was Adam Clayton Powell. Powell was accused of a similar charge of misappropriated Committee funds for his personal use and other charges including personal trips to Bimini. The charges and evidence against Powell were so evident that Congress expelled him. After the people of his congressional district still elected Powell to Congress in a special election to fill the seat that he was expelled form the House refused to seat him but a Supreme Court ruling declared the action unconstitutional. The controversial career of Adam Clayton Powell finally came to an end only after Charlie Rangel defeated Powell in a primary in 1970.
Now 39 years later Rangel is seen as conducting actions as reckless and corrupt as the predecessor that he ousted due to many of the same reasons that Rangel now finds himself charged with.
Until now, Democrats have been quiet about their powerful Ways and Means Committee Chairman. Republicans however have not been so quiet. Seeing that Rangel has violated regulations of the House and the I.R.S. many members of the G.O.P. do not believe it is proper to have the fox in charge of the henhouse. That is why they are about to present a resolution from Texas Republican Congressman John Carter. It is a “dump Rangel” resolution that calls for Rangel to step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee until the ever growing list of ethic probes that he faces are completed.
Personally, I am torn on the issue.
This is America and we are suppose to be innocent until proven guilty so I have to ask myself if Rangel should actually step down until it is proven that he is guilty of committing the violations that he is accused of. After all, politics is a dirty business filled with treachery and backstabbing. That means any member of Congress can charge another member of a whole host of violations. If accusations alone were enough grounds for stepping down, plenty of people would throw out an array of accusations against others. The next in line for the position of chairman of the Ways and Means could easily become chairman himself if accusations alone warranted removal from the position. So I am not sure charges of violations are enough to even temporarily remove Rangel as chairman.
However, it is clear that Rangel is undoubtedly guilty of several charges. He has admitted as such. So even if Rangel is not guilty of them all, he is guilty of many. That being the case, I feel stepping down as chairman may be in order.
From a political perspective, I believe it is clear that Rangel’s level of impropriety certainly does not make him worthy of wielding so much power on such a so very powerful committee. He is not a trustworthy figure and it is easy to see that he is not above reproach. From that point of view, I believe Rep. Rangel should step aside. His continued service as Chairman of Ways and Means only helps to further taint an already tainted political process.
But at the same time, from a strictly partisan point of view, as a Republican, I hope Nancy Pelosi continues to stand behind Charlie.
As a Republican, I just love the negative impression that Rangel and liberal support for him will generate during next year’s 2010 midterm elections. People will be rightfully pissed Democrats are doing everything that they can to keep a man with as questionable ethics as Charlie Rangel in charge of the most powerful congressional committee in the country. If Democrats reject the Republican “dump Rangel” resolution they will not exactly be giving the impression of a political institution trying to combat the “culture of corruption”. In fact they will be going on record as supporting the political culture of corruption.
This is not just my opinion. It is thinking that many Democrats themselves have come to consider. That is why in New York, top democrats have been quietly trying to kill two birds with one stone. With the tanking poll numbers of Governor David Paterson, everyone from President Obama to local Democrat county chairman are hoping Paterson will step aside and allow for State Attorney General Cuomo to take the nomination for Governor and hopefully smoothly sail to victory in November of 2010.
To help make this happen, many Democrats are privately asking Charlie Rangel to resign so that they can avoid the embarrassment of Rangel’s unethical and illegal conduct and then offer Governor Paterson the newly vacated congressional seat. The hope being that the opportunity to represent New York in Congress will provide Paterson with a gracious exit of Albany and avoid state Democrats the bruising embarrassment of his potential gubernatorial candidacy.
This is scenario is probably very wishful thinking on the part of Democrats. I do not believe that Rangel will ever willfully give up anything and David Paterson is not likely to admit that he is a dismal failure as a governor. But the mere fact that Democrats are wishing for this to happen is encouraging. It shows that they are thinking and that both Congressman Rangel and Governor Paterson are problems for them.
All things considered, Rangel’s continued leadership role does not help anyone accept Republicans. From a partisan point of view, he is simply a drag. He is great fodder for Republicans to use as an example of institutional political corruption that Democrats tolerate and support. From a nonpartisan, good government stand point, Rangel’s institutional arrogance and blatant abuses of power are also a drag in that area. The American people are not served well by having unethical politicians holding positions of significant policy influence.
If Democrats want to serve the greater good of both their policy intentions and the American people, they will call for Rangel to step aside. If they care about good government they will support the dump Rangel resolution.