Wrist slap: Ethics Committee counsel recommends censure for Rangel; Update: Censure it is

The Committee’s still deliberating as I write this, but what other sentence could they possibly impose? They have three choices. One is reprimand, a.k.a. light wrist-slap, which would be absurd even by normal House ethics standards given that they’ve convicted him of fully 11 violations. Another is expulsion, which ain’t happening. So it’s censure, a.k.a. hard wrist-slap, by default. Under slightly different circumstances, that sentence actually would have stung a bit. As it is, it’s purely symbolic:

Blake Chisam, the ethics-committee lawyer who is serving as prosecutor for Mr. Rangel’s disciplinary proceedings, told the panel that the senior New York Democrat’s conduct “demonstrated a lack of attention and carelessness over a broad range of issues over a lengthy period of time” and that the punishment of censure was appropriate.

Mr. Rangel had been expected to face either a censure or a reprimand. Both involve a vote on the House floor condemning the lawmaker’s conduct, but censure is the more severe punishment. In Mr. Rangel’s case, the difference is entirely symbolic: Censure includes a ban from serving as the ranking party member on a committee, but Mr. Rangel effectively relinquished that in March when he was forced to give up his chairmanship of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

In fact, Chisam later said that the violations didn’t quite rise to the level of censure under previous precedent, which I guess means this warrants an in-between wrist slap But look on the bright side: Even if Rangel hadn’t stepped down as Ways and Means chair and was stripped of his title today, he would have lost it anyway six weeks from now when the new GOP Congress is sworn in. As such, today’s hearing was simply an opportunity to shame him publicly — which, as you’ll see below, GOP Rep. Jo Bonner used to full advantage. Exit question: I understand the value of having John Lewis appear on your behalf as a character witness, but how effective can anyone be on that score when they open by admitting that they don’t know the facts of the case?

Update: No surprise — the Committee’s recommended censure. Now it’s on to the House floor vote for the ceremonial slapping o’ the wrist.