By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
March 3, 2010 – Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) , the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee announced Wednesday he would temporarily step aside as chair until all ethics investigations have been completed.
This was a quick retreat from his stance on Tuesday, but the tide may have turned when he learned of Republicans plans to bring a resolution t the floor that would have forced his fellow Dems into a politically awkward situation.
Rangel, 79, told reporters at a press conference Wednesday, “In the view of the fact that my chairmanship is bringing so much attention to the press, and in order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections, I have this morning sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the ethics committee completes its work.”
Rangel’s fellow colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have been loyal to one of the founding members of the group, following the announcement CBC chairwomen Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) issued the following statement;
“We regret that Chairman Charles Rangel is taking a temporary leave of absence during this very critical time in our efforts to turn the economy around. He has been an effective chairman and has shown tremendous leadership on many issues and dedicated service to his constituents.”
Rangel will be replaced by California Rep. Peter Stark (D) another colorful and often controversial member of the House. Stark’s role as chairman is also deemed “temporary,” and it’s unlikely his selection will sit well with House Republicans.
From the floor of the House In 2007 Stark accused President Bush of sending troops to Iraq “to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” He also gave Rep. Scoot McInnis a tongue latching calling the Colorado lawmaker a “fruitcake.”
“We recognize that Chairman Rangel did not want this matter to be distractions from our efforts to create jobs and revitalize our economy. However, we remain concerned about the precedent this sets for the House of Representatives that the political climate is such that a member would feel the need to step aside, even temporarily, during an ongoing proceeding,” Lee said.
All of this is unfortunate for the seasoned lawmaker, but the move he made has removed the target on his back, given the Dems time to re-group and will allow the Ethics Committee time to finish their work.
Did Rep. Charles Rangel do the right thing?