Washington Post Staff
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 5:02 PM
As the House of Representatives began debating censuring Charles Rangel there was still much in the balance.However, a vote was called and passed, and as the Post reported:
The House of Representatives on Thursday voted 333-79 to censure Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) for violations of tax and fundraising rules, the first time in nearly 30 years that the House has considered such a severe punishment for one of its own.
The historic proceedings began shortly after 4 p.m., with the House chamber nearly full. The first speaker was Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House ethics committtee, which investigated Rangel and recommended he receive Congress's second-most severe punishment.
"We found his actions, and accumulations of actions, reflected poorly on the institutions of the House," Lofgren said, with Rangel sitting 10 feet away. Lofgren noted that Rangel has served for years in Congress, and before that was decorated for heroism in combat during the Korean War. But, she said, "that service does not excuse the fact that Rep. Rangel violated laws. He violated regulations. He violated the rules of this House."
After the House Committee on Ethics recommended a censure for Rangel, his hopes shifted as Rangel and his supporters sought to secure only a reprimand from the chamber:
Will Rangel - who has been found guilty of 11 ethics violations - be scolded in person, or will he be scolded in writing?
That's all. The first option is called a censure. The second, which Rangel (D) very much prefers, is a reprimand. Neither would kick Rangel out of Congress, dock his pay, take away his right to vote - or in any other way prevent him from being the exact same congressman he is today.
So why does it matter? The reason has to do with the way congressmen view themselves: In an era when politicians routinely compare their opponents to Hitler, socialists and Dr. Kevorkian, the House still sees its chamber as an island of 19th-century decorum. It is a place, at least in theory, where an old-fashioned scolding still carries an awful sting.
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