Friday, March 5, 2010
Influential Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel has announced his decision to temporarily step down from the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee while he contests allegations of unethical financial dealings.
The decision by the flamboyant New York Democrat, a 40-year veteran of Congress, follows the publication of a report by the House Ethics Committee, which concluded that Rangel violated House gift rules by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to conferences in the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.
In a short letter to House Speaker Nanacy Pelosi, who has made stamping out political corruption one of her top priories, Rangel stated simply that: "I respectfully request a leave of absence from my duties and responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means until such time as the Committee on Standards completes its findings of the review currently under way."
As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and someone who can be characterized as occupying the left wing of the Democratic presence in Congress, Rangel has been a key figure in the shaping of US tax policy in recent months.
The Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest committee of the United States Congress, and is the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives. The Committee derives a large share of its jurisdiction from the US Constitution which declares: "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives."
Rangel has been replaced by Michigan Democrat Sander M. Levin, who will serve as the committee's Acting Chairman until the Rangel investigation is concluded.