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Rangel challenges House to kick him out

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Rep. Rangel: 'I'm not going away'
  • NEW: Veteran legislator says partisan politics are at play in the House ethics committee
  • Rangel says he won't resign over alleged ethics violations
  • He takes the House floor to deny he is corrupt
  • The House ethics committee accuses Rangel of 13 counts of violating House rules

Washington (CNN) -- Veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel apologized on the House floor Tuesday for causing any embarrassment by violating chamber rules, but he insisted he is not corrupt and refused to resign.

In a sometimes rambling speech, the New York Democrat defiantly challenged the House ethics committee to move faster on holding a public hearing on the 13 counts of alleged violations against him.

He also challenged fellow House members of both parties to kick him out if they want to get rid of him.

"If it is the judgment of the people here that I should resign," then the ethics committee should expedite its consideration of the charges against him, Rangel said.

Video: Watch Rangel avoid questions
Video: Should Rangel and Waters stay?

But "I am not going away. I am here."

Rangel blasted what he characterized as a politicized, partisan ethics investigation process.

"Somebody has to do more than wish I go away," he said. "I am not asking for leniency. I'm asking for exposure of the facts."

If you think I'm guilty of violating House rules, then "fire your best shot at getting rid of me through expulsion," said Rangel, a 20-term congressman running for re-election in his Harlem district.

House Republicans and some House Democrats have called for Rangel to resign because of the alleged ethics violations. With another ethics case pending against fellow House Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, Rangel is under pressure to ease the negative publicity of his case during the runup to congressional midterm elections in November.

Rangel acknowledged those sentiments, saying, "Heck, if I was you, I might want me to go away too." However, he made clear that only expulsion by the full House would get him to leave.

"Are you going to say that while there's no evidence that I took a nickel ... that I have to leave here?" he asked. "Do what you have to do."

On July 29, the House ethics committee accused Rangel of 13 violations of House rules involving alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress.

Among other things, Rangel has been accused of using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center bearing his name from corporate heads and others with business before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel was chairman of the committee until he was forced to give up the leadership position this year because of the pending allegations.

Other charges involve alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations, as well as improper use of government mail service and letterhead.

An ethics committee trial of Rangel is still set to be held, most likely in September, barring a settlement between Rangel and the committee members.

Rangel said Tuesday that he wanted the ethics committee to announce a date for the trial hearing, instead of leaving him and the chamber on hold during campaigning for upcoming primary elections and the November midterm vote.

"I have to wait until after my primary to find about when the ethics committee intends to have a hearing," Rangel said of the New York primary vote on September 14. He later quipped: "I'm 80 years old. I don't want to die before the hearing."

Rangel also offered explanations for the ethics charges against him, characterizing them as mistakes and acknowledging violations of House rules but denying they amounted to corruption.

"It's not corrupt," he said of using House letterhead for approaching possible contributors to a university policy center in his name. "It may be stupid. It may be negligent, but it's not corrupt."

Regarding an accusation that he used a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office, Rangel said he did nothing wrong but was "insensitive to the appearance of being treated differently."

"I plead guilty of not being sensitive," he said.

Rangel also said that he referred problems with tax issues to the ethics committee himself, saying it showed he never intended to hide anything.

Republicans say the cases of Rangel and Waters show that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has failed to live up to her vow to rid the House of corruption.

Ken Spain, the communications director of the National Republican Campaign Committee, said Pelosi's "most ethical Congress in history" had "has turned into a three-ring circus."

However, Rangel blamed partisan politics by Republican members of the ethics committee for the two-year investigation of his case, as well as the lack of a firm date for the trial hearing on his alleged violations.

He also said that the ranking Republican on the ethics subcommittee that would hold the trial hearing had already stated publicly that Rangel is corrupt.

"Isn't this historically the first time that it appears as though partisanship has entered the subcommittee?" Rangel said, later adding: "Who in the heck would want somebody who called you corrupt to be the ranking guy on the subcommittee to judge you?"

An expedited hearing is needed to reveal all the facts, rather than continued delay in hopes that Rangel would run out of money for lawyers or otherwise lose his resolve to fight the charges, he said.

"Don't let this happen to you," he said in advice to newer House members. "Don't walk away as a convenience with no evidence against you."

He apologized "for any embarrassment I've caused," he said, but insisted he would retain his dignity despite the allegations.

"For God's sake, just don't believe that I don't have feelings, that I don't have pride," Rangel said, later adding: "You're not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable."