The House of Representatives formally censured Rep. Charles Rangel for ethics violations on Thursday, the first time a member of Congress has faced that humiliating punishment in 27 years. Rangel, a New York Democrat, was both apologetic and defiant, saying other censured House members had done far worse, and calling the vote against him "very, very, very political." Some dismissed the censure as "meaningless," since the congressman will get to keep his seat. Was censure the right punishment? (Watch Charlie Rangel's final plea)
What a weak slap on the wrist: Charlie Rangel "ignored the law," says Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue. "He evaded taxes. He lied to investigators and on his official ethics forms," and lived large as he evaded taxes on rental income from his Caribbean villa. Censure may be "the second-toughest punishment the House can hand down," but the only appropriate punishment for Rangel's "slimeball" ways would be "tossing the bum out."
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Censure was too harsh: Rangel deserved to be punished, says former New York City public advocate Mark Green, as quoted in The Village Voice. His use of congressional stationary for fundraising "crossed a line," and the failure of a powerful congressman to report earned income is "a public relations disaster." But censure is usually reserved for "corruption, violence, or sexual misconduct." Rangel merely deserved a reprimand; nothing he did "is frankly much different than what many members do daily."
Rangel got just the punishment he deserved: Rangel's disregard for tax laws and House ethics rules deserved "the most serious rebuke in the body's power" short of expulsion, say the editors of the New York Daily News. The case for going easier on him was weak — he was in the wrong, even if he didn't enrich himself or take bribes. "More importantly, voting for censure established a new and higher standard of conduct, a most welcome development."
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