WASHINGTON — The House ethics committee’s chief counsel recommended Thursday that veteran Rep. Charles Rangel be censured for financial and fundraising misconduct as lawmakers neared closure on an embarassing 2 1/2-year-long scandal.
Chief counsel Blake Chisman called for the punishment despite the veteran New York congressman’s plea, in a prepared statement in advance of the hearing, for “a drop of fairness and mercy.”
If Chisam’s recommendation is carried out, it would be the most serious punishment short of expulsion that could be meted out by the House. Chisam and Rangel argued their positions at a public hearing on sanctions, where the 80-year-old congressman acknowledged making mistakes in handling his finances and said he wasn’t there to “retry this case.”
He did say he wished the committee would weigh, in considering its vote on punishment, how the House had handled previous cases involving lawmakers who were enriched by activities they undertook that were judged to be in violation of the chamber’s rules.
Before Chisam commenced his remarks, Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., told committee colleagues that Rangel needed only to “look in the mirror to know who to blame” for his predicament.
Chisam said Rangel “brought discredit” upon the House and that his actions “served to undermine public confidence in this institution.”
The committee was poised to recess for a closed session to discuss the recommendation of censure.
Rangel also brought in Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat, to give a testimonial for the congressman to the panel. Lewis called his colleague “a good and decent man” and said he had worked tirelessly to advance civil rights.