Congressman Charles B. Rangel
Last August, this publication headlined a story, asking the question is there “Racial Profiling in Congress?” The events surrounding the censure of Congressman Rangel may have answered that question.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
For 40 years, Congressman Charles Rangel has served the people of Harlem. He was recently re-elected to his 21st term in the Congress with almost 80 percent of the votes. Those are statistics that begs the question: Is he serving his constituents … doing the work they have continuously sent him to do for 20 terms? They obviously are satisfied with the quality of his representation for the 80-year-old Democrat remains a political leader in New York’s Harlem.
In speaking before his colleagues in the House before the censure vote, Rangel contritely said, “I brought it on to myself.” He appealed for fairness, in addition some of his supporters argued unsuccessfully for a lesser reprimand. In the end, their appeals failed; the vote to censure him was 333 to 79, for an array ethics violations for which he did not receive any financial gain and for which others with more egregious violations were not subjected to such a harsh penalty. (It was tantamount to using a hammer to swat an ant).
As a co-founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rangel has served his constituents in a way that reflected the CBC’s mantle as “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.” And after the vote, he added, “at no time has it ever entered my mind to enrich myself or to do violence to the honesty that’s expected of all of us in this House.”
The statement of his colleague and chair of the CBC, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, echoed those sentiments, “Today’s vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction, especially considering that after a 2-year investigation, the Committee found no evidence of corruption or personal financial gain. Under House precedents, a reprimand would have been a fairer sanction for the lapses that he has long since admitted and corrected.”
When evaluating the violations leveled against Rangel against those of the last two House members, who were censured, the picture becomes clear. According to the congressional record, the last two congressmen to be censured were in violation of sexual misconduct with House pages. That is a far cry from anything from the Rangel allegations.
Furthermore, Lee added, “The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years. According to the Committee’s counsel, Congressman Rangel’s misconduct resulted from overzealousness and sloppiness, not corruption.”
It is important to report Rangel’s statement to the House following the vote to censure him:
“I fully recognize that constitutionally this body has the full jurisdiction to determine the conduct of one of its members. My predecessor suffered because they didn’t allow him to be a member before they decided that he should be expelled. But notwithstanding that, we do know that we are a political body and even though it is painful to accept this vote, I am fully aware that this vote reflects perhaps the thinking not just of the members but the political side and the constituency of this body. Having said that and having my opportunity to do what I wanted to do initially and that is to make certain that this body and this country would know that at no time has it ever entered my mind to enrich myself or to do violence to the honesty that’s expected of all of us in this House. I think that has been proven and that has been what I’ve been asking for and that’s why I’ve admitted to mistakes and was prepared to do what I’ve done.
“I understand that this is a new criteria and a breakthrough in order to teach somebody a higher lesson than those that in the past have done far more harm to the reputation of this body than I. But I just would want all of you to know that in my heart I truly feel good. It’s not all the commitments that are made to God in 1950. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know in my heart that I’m not going to be judged by this Congress but I’m going to be judged by my life, my activities, my contributions to society and I just apologize for the awkward position that some of you are in. But at the end of the day, as I started off saying, compared to where I’ve been, I haven’t had a bad day since.”
And speaking on behalf of her colleagues, Lee concluded, “Today’s action in no way diminishes Congressman Rangel’s distinguished 50-year history of service to his country and constituents who again overwhelmingly returned him to office in November. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are proud to call Congressman Rangel our colleague and friend.”
After Rangel returned to his district, he let his constituents know that, “Charles Rangel is not guilty of corruption or self-enrichment.”