At 1 pm the House Ethics Committee will hold a public meeting to reveal the ethics charges against Rep. Charlie Rangel. It is still unknown what Rangel will do after the charges are unsealed, but he faces two choices: resign or possibly face expulsion from the House. Here are the latest updates.
The House only recognizes three official forms of discipline: reprimand, censure and expulsion. However, the House periodically sanctions members with letters of admonishment. Everything is on the table. Conceivably, the House could make Rangel stand in the corner.
Here’s something to watch for: Democrats and Republicans alike have mostly kept their powder dry since the announcement came late last Thursday that ethics investigators found alleged wrongdoing by Rangel. Reps. Walt Minnick (D-ID), Betty Sutton (D-OH) and Ann Kilpatrick (D-AZ) all have asked for Rangel to resign if the ethics charges are found to be true. All three face touch re-election campaigns. Minnick and Kilpatrick are freshmen in swing districts.
But once the charges are out of the box today, expect a tidal wave of Democrats and Republicans alike to begin to chatter about Rangel and possibly call for his resignation.
But failing an eleventh-hour plea deal with the ethics committee or his resignation, Rangel would make a public stand by fighting the ethics findings in a hearing room in the Capitol Visitor Center, deep beneath the East Front Plaza of the Capitol. A deal with the committee seems unlikely, in part because it would require at least one Republican on the committee to agree to a settlement. On top of that, a deal is unlikely because Rangel could potentially expose himself to legal jeopardy if he admits wrongdoing on certain allegations.
Rangel was lulled into his current predicament by counting on the House ethics committee to be its usual wimpy self. Traditionally, the committee is a path to avoid paying for transgressions.
The last time the committee ordered a trial was 2002, for Ohio Democrat James Traficant, known for his comical toupee, flamboyant style and flagrant abuse of the rules. He wound up in prison, convicted in 2002 of accepting bribes, evading taxes and forcing his staffers to give him kickbacks on their salaries. It says much about Traficant — but also a little about the standing of Congress — that after being released last year, he tried launching a bid to for his old seat.