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Rangel looks past censure

Despite getting the support of the Queens congressional delegation, the U.S. House voted 333 to 79 last Thursday to censure U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Astoria) for improperly soliciting donations, improperly using a rent-stabilized apartment and tax evasion.

In a statement following the vote, Rangel looked to the future. He spoke not about the decision, but said he wanted to get back to work improving job creation, education and health care and bringing the troops back home.

“Now that the Ethics proceedings have passed, I will put the pain behind me as well,” Rangel said. “I will focus on lessening the pain of the American people during these challenging times in our country.”

In the vote to censure, 333 representatives voted for it and 79 representatives voted against. Every other Queens representative — Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood) – voted against censure.

This is the first time this formal process of rebuke by the House has been used since 1983.

In November, Weiner said he was unsure how he would vote in the censure, but pointed out that Rangel had served his country.

“I think this is a sad day for him and a sad day for Congress,” Weiner said on Nov. 22, after the committee concluded he was guilty of ethics violations.

The House Ethics Committee report said it recommended that he be censured based on the congressman’s improper solicitation of donations for the Rangel Center for Public Service that he worked to set up at the City College of New York, his use of a rent-stabilized apartment for campaign committees and his filing of inaccurate Financial Disclosure Statements and federal tax returns.

While representatives have been censured in the past for improperly using money, such as former Rep. Charles Wilson, a California Democrat who was censured in 1980 for improperly using campaign funds and accepting funds from an individual with interest in legislation, the report said Rangel deserved censure because of the cumulative nature of the violations.

“The committee concluded that the 11 violations committed by Rep. Rangel on a continuous and prolonged basis were more serious in character, meriting a strong congressional response rebuking his behavior,” the report stated.

The committee report recommended Rangel pay restitution and provide proof of payment to the committee.

Censure does not bring any legal consequences, but is a form of public shaming by the House, and the first action below expulsion. It is a more serious charge than a reprimand, which is not done in public. Only 22 other representatives have been censured in the history of the House.

Crowley said in a statement he believed a reprimand was more appropriate for Rangel’s wrongdoings, given the historical precedents for censure. In the past censure has been used against House members for supporting the confederacy, involvement in the Credit Mobilier of America scandal in the late 1800s and having sex with House pages.

“Charlie Rangel is a dedicated public servant who has served the nation and the people of New York with distinction, both as a war hero and longstanding member of Congress. He’s not perfect, though, and deserves to be reprimanded for his transgressions,” Crowley said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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