This morning—after last week's admonishment for an ethics violation involving a trip to the Caribbean—Harlem representative Charlie Rangel announced he'd temporarily step down from his powerful post on the House Ways and Means Committee. Despite a bad attitude throughout the process, he claimed that from the "very very beginning" he had "offered" to give up his chairmanship, but that now he had "sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asking her to grant me a leave of absence." As justification, Rangel said he was taking leave in order “to avoid my colleagues having to defend me” during their campaigns. He didn't take questions.
Five days ago, Rangel was found guilty of violating House gift-giving rules by accepting a corporate-sponsored business trip to St. Martin. Amid calls from fellow Democrats to step down as head of the committee responsible for writing tax policy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended him. Over the weekend, the long-running official announced he'd seek a 21st term, and yesterday, even after a meeting where he was told he didn't have the votes to keep his post, he insisted he wouldn't step down from the Ways and Means Committee. When asked if he'd still be chairman on Wednesday, he told reporters “Yes, and I don’t lie to the press.”
Still, this morning's announcement, reported by the AP, is far from surprising, especially considering he's still under investigation for his use of four rent-stabilized apartments in the city and failure to pay taxes on income from his Dominican Republic villa.
"It's a real kick in the ass," one source told the Daily News after last night's meeting. "He's obviously down, it's not something he wanted to do." Still, some think he needed to be put in his place. Another source called Rangel's defiance "crazy."