Rangel: Yes, I'm being admonished for ethics violations, but it's totally not my fault

The details aren’t really important, but in a nutshell, he accepted trips to the Caribbean which his office knew were being paid for by a corporation that routinely lobbied Congress. Rangel claims that he personally didn’t know who had picked up the tab, in which case why should he be punished for the mistakes of two idiot staffers? We’ll see what the official report says tomorrow; apparently, the committee will claim that he was aware or should have been aware of where the money came from. Either way, anyone not think his staffers were explicitly told not to tell him who was underwriting these trips?

But that’s all window dressing. The true glory of this story is that it’s a total clusterfark for Pelosi, who’ll now be squeezed on one side by Republicans demanding his removal from the Ways and Means Committee and on the other by the Congressional Black Caucus demanding that he remain in office. What’s a racially “progressive” Speaker who’s worried about her party’s image ahead of the midterms to do? Steve Kornacki:

It’s worth noting, too, that Pelosi received some quiet help when she moved on [William] Jefferson from Rangel and several of his CBC allies. Jefferson was something of an outcast in the group. Out of principle, most CBC members stood with him. But some of the group’s most important leaders – like Rangel – quietly assisted Pelosi (hoping, no doubt, to gain a chit from a future Speaker).

But when it comes to Rangel now, Pelosi won’t find similar help at the top of the CBC. The Harlem Democrat is a CBC lion, a founding member who inspires deep reverence from its members. If Rangel asks them to fight for him, they will.

This is why Pelosi has been dreading this day for so long. If she pushes, she could probably muster the votes to bounce Rangel, but the price would be steep: an ugly fight that would attract national press attention, hand Republicans cannon fodder, and divide her own coalition. Or she could look the other way, which would give the GOP even more ammunition and anger swing-district Democrats, who don’t want to have to explain to their constituents why they’re “protecting” Charlie Rangel.

Mind you, this isn’t the only ethics investigation that’s focused on him. Even so, my fearless prediction is that she’ll back down and leave him in place. The die has already been cast for November; knocking him off his perch at Ways and Means won’t polish the Democrats’ reputation at this point. Why piss off the CBC and split the caucus when she’ll get nothing in return?

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