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House censures Rangel

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Rangel: Vote 'very political'
  • Rangel calls the censure vote "very political"
  • The House censured Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York
  • The House also recommends that Rangel pay restitution for unpaid taxes
  • Rangel was found guilty by the ethics committee on 11 counts of violating House rules

Washington (CNN) -- The House of Representatives censured veteran New York Rep. Charlie Rangel on Thursday -- a stunning downfall for a man once considered one of the most powerful members of Congress.

The 333-79 vote required Rangel to stand in the well of the House as a formal censure resolution was read aloud by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

The House ethics committee recently found the 20-term Harlem Democrat guilty on 11 counts of violating House rules, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and improperly using his office to raise money for an educational center bearing his name.

On November 18, the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that the House censure Rangel and that he pay restitution for any unpaid taxes. The committee's rules require that its report be presented to the House for a vote.

"It is painful to sit in judgment of our colleague" but the punishment is appropriate, said California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the Democratic head of the ethics committee.

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"While I feel for [Rangel] as a human being, I feel more strongly that a public office is a public trust," said Texas GOP Michael McCaul, also a member of the ethics committee.

Addressing the House, Rangel admitted he had made "serious mistakes," but asked for a lighter penalty than censure, which is the most serious punishment the House can impose short of expulsion.

"I brought it on myself, but I still believe that this body has to be guided by fairness," he said. "Nobody has ever suffered the humiliation of a censure when the record is abundantly clear [that there is] no evidence at all of corruption."

Rangel, a former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, insisted he never used his office for "self-enrichment."

After being censured, Rangel ripped the decision to impose censure as a "very, very, very political vote." But "at long last this two-year nightmare is over," he said.

Several congressmen publicly backed Rangel's assertion that the censure penalty was too severe.

"Charlie Rangel is a friend and colleague. We disagree on virtually every issue," New York GOP Rep. Peter King said shortly before the vote. But I've never heard "anyone question Charlie's integrity" or seen him treat anyone with disrespect.

There is no proof of activity involving "moral turpitude" or "criminal intent," said Rep. John Tanner, D-Tennessee.

Rangel, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, became the twenty-third House member in history to be censured. Nine others have been reprimanded.

The last House members to be censured prior to Rangel were Reps. Gerry Studds, D-Massachusetts, and Daniel Crane, R-Illinois, in 1983. Both men were found guilty of sexual misconduct with House pages.