As Charlie Rangel acquired yet another ethics charge against him, he returned to the House floor to make his case for, er, making his case. Or something like that; by the news reports of Rangel’s floor speech‘, it is difficult to comprehend exactly what he had in mind. Rangel took a swipe at House leadership for leaving him “swinging in the wind,” but by all accounts, it’s Rangel that wants a trial and not his colleagues:
A combative Rep. Charles Rangel told the House Tuesday he’s not resigning despite 13 charges of wrongdoing and demanded the ethics committee not leave him “swinging in the wind.”
Rangel, who is 80, spoke without notes in an extraordinary, often emotional 37-minute speech that defied his lawyers’ advice to keep quiet about his case. The New York Democrat and 40-year House veteran had a sharp message in dismissing fellow Democrats who — worried about election losses — want him to quit,
“If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion,” he said. …
Rangel noted the committee is scheduled to convene Sept. 13, the day before his primary, but that the main part of his ethics trial would not come until later in the fall.
“Don’t leave me swinging in the wind until November,” he demanded.
First, only a select few Democrats have demanded his resignation. At last count, the Footsteps Caucus amounted to a grand total of eight Democrats, which is about 3.2% of all House Democrats. None of them are in leadership positions, but all eight of them are facing tough re-election bids against energized Republicans.
Besides, Rangel knows that the House won’t expel him. The House probably won’t even censure him. The subcommittee handling the charges was going to recommend a reprimand, the lightest possible punishment, which amounts to a strongly-worded memo. It has no consequences beyond a scolding and, presumably, some embarrassment for the officeholder, although in Rangel’s case that seems highly doubtful. And that was their recommendation without cutting a deal with Rangel.
Democratic leadership would love nothing more than to cut a deal with Rangel to make it go away, one that would allow him to hold onto his seat. Rangel, for some reason, wants to press the case much more than anyone on the Ethics Committee does, perhaps in an effort to get the panel to retreat and allow him to claim vindication in his primary fight. Rangel’s speech is nothing but grandstanding, and expensive grandstanding at that. Mediaite, which has the entire video, calls it “political theater,” and they’re right:
The term “political theater” gets thrown around a lot, but that was exactly what happened on the House floor today. In a moment so unexpected the cable news networks seemed caught off guard (until they all went wall-to-wall), Rep. Charlie Rangel spoke for more than 20 minutes about his pending ethics trial.
It was a rant that slammed everyone from House Democrats to Pres. Barack Obama – and he promised not to go away anytime soon.
Chuck Todd wasn’t impressed:
Robert Costa reports that Rangel plans to send a bill to his colleagues:
Rangel also noted that he expects Democratic leaders to help him with attorneys’ fees once he runs out of money.
Yes, because the one thing we’ve learned about Rangel through these disclosures is that he has a money problem. Well, he does. He has a lot more of it than he declared in his filings. In a reality-based setting, that claim may be the emptiest threat of all.
Update (AP): Here’s the video. If you’re not inclined to devote 27 minutes to watching him rant, CNN has the key 80 seconds in a separate clip. A snippet from Rasmussen’s eye-popping new poll to meditate on while you watch: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% of U.S. voters believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or a campaign contribution. That’s a 14-point increase from three years ago.”