Rangel KO’s Boehner Bid on Censure Resolution

Posted July 31, 2008 at 6:18pm

House Democrats easily turned aside Thursday an 11th-hour plan hatched by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to tar them with the “culture of corruption,” but the GOP appeared listless in its bid to take on Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Boehner offered a resolution censuring Rangel for his use of four rent-controlled apartments in New York City as well as his effort to steer donations to City College of New York. With this week’s indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on corruption charges, opponents suggested that Boehner might have been trying to change the topic.

Instead, the fight ended in a whimper. The resolution fell on a 254-138 vote.

The dust-up initially had the markings of a classic House floor brawl between the perfectly coifed Minority Leader and the gravel-voiced Ways and Means chairman. Rangel stalked the chamber’s well for more than 15 minutes, flanked by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), whispering counsel to the veteran New York City scrapper.

With the chamber abuzz over the resolution — nearly every Member could be seen reading and re-reading the indictment of Rangel’s character in the runup to the vote — Boehner strolled into the chamber. For several long minutes, the two appeared to eye each with crosswise glances before the Republican leader took his seat.

In a statement, Boehner said. “Instead of keeping their promise to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington, House Democrats are sinking in it. Chairman Rangel’s own public admissions about his conduct make clear that his sweetheart deals violate House rules as well as state and federal laws. Even though no Member is above the law, the Democratic majority’s response has been to sweep the matter under the rug.”

Using a point of personal privilege, Rangel seized the floor — and control of the fight — to defend himself. “There is no one in this House more thick-skinned when playing politics than I am,” he said.

Rangel called on Republicans to modify the resolution to drop the censure charges and allow his requested ethics committee review of his conduct play out. Rangel also appealed to both sides to not attack each other’s character based on news reports, arguing that “there’s no need even for the mean-spirited people in the minority … there’s no reason for Republicans and Democrats to do that to each other based on a newspaper story.” And while that shot elicited a handful of catcalls from the the GOP back bench, the Republican pugilistic spirit had clearly been deflated.

Democrats gave the popular chairman a standing ovation. Twenty-five Republicans joined Democrats in tabling the resolution; 29 Republicans and five Democrats voted present. Among the GOPers voting to table the resolution, six were members of Ways and Means, including ranking member Jim McCrery (La.). Four Republicans on the panel voted present.

Although Boehner stayed with the fight briefly — he forced the House Clerk to read the resolution in its entirety, laying out the GOP’s case for Rangel’s censure — he quickly made his way out of the chamber after casting his vote in the affirmative.