The House of Representatives voted 332 to 79 to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel on Thursday for violations of the body's ethics laws. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read the censure on the floor of the House immediately following the vote.
Today's vote brought an end to the investigation of the long serving New York Democrat, who was found to have violated 11 of the House ethics rules. The charges centered upon four issues: that Rangel used Congressional resources to raise money for an educational center bearing his name; that he failed to report taxable income on a rental villa in the Dominican Republic; the he filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms; and that he used a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem as a campaign office.
Several members from both parties spoke in support changing the punishment from censure to reprimand. And Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a member of the ethics committee, proposed a motion to lessen the sanction from censure to reprimand that ultimately failed by a vote of 146-267. It had the support of 143 Democrats and three Republicans: Reps. Pete King (NY), Ron Paul (TX) and Don Young (AK).
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) argued that the whatever sanction was levied against Rangel should be consistent with precedent. "He knows he messed up," Scott said. Censure would be "singularly harsh and unfair and without precedent."
King also spoke in support of reducing the punishment to a reprimand, but upped the ante on the rhetoric. Censure is to a reprimand as the death penalty is to prison, King said, while noting that he and Rangel "disagree on virtually every issue."
Rangel has been lobbying his fellow House members in recent weeks to vote to punish him with a reprimand instead of a censure. His office even posted a chart on his website to help make the case that his violations were not worthy of censure. The Congressional Black Caucus got in on the act, too, whipping all Congress members on whether they supported the lesser punishment of reprimand rather than the censure according to Politico.
Abbe Lowell, a lawyer who accompanied Rangel at his appearance before the House ethics committee last month, told TPM that he was disappointed he didn't get a chance to represent Rangel. The New York member had complained that the panel was denying him his due process rights since he couldn't afford to pay for a lawyer.
"It is really clear under the precedent of the House that the appropriate sanction for what the committee found is reprimand. And if the House doesn't follow its precedence, than there's no reason to have them," Lowell said. "That's what happens when somebody is unrepresented, the other side gets their way."