Embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel just took a moment of personal privilege on the House floor during the debate over aid to the states to address his colleagues about the charges he is facing.
The speech was rather extraordinary with Rangel admitting to violating the ethics rules of Congress but calling for a public and speedy trial so that he can make his case to his colleagues and to the American people.
Rangel has been defiant in public of late, but he at times took a much more wistful tone on the House floor.
“My lawyer says don’t offend them,” Rangel said, while touching his hand to chest. “My friends say don’t go to the floor. And I say what are you going to do me? Suppose I do get emotional? Suppose I do think of my life, of the beginning and the end? Are you going to expel me from this body?”
At one point he recounted his career from his service in the Korean War and said, “Hey, I’m 80 years old. All my life has been public service.”
Rangel took both Democrats and Republicans to task for calling for him to step aside before all the facts have been aired.
He told his fellow party members, “I was the guy that was raising money in Republican districts to get you here,” but added, “I mean, do what you have to do.”
And for his colleagues across the aisle, he said. “And Republicans. You don’t have much to run on, but I mean, what the hell, Rangel is an embarrasment based on newspaper articles. I can see why you would do it.”
He added, “At the end of the day somebody has to do more than wish I would go away.”
Rangel went through each of the charges against, admitting to several infractions but seemingly never quite admitting that the infractions warranted his removal from Congress. He warned his fellow members that if the Ethics Committee recommended he be expelled, than it would prove that the system does not work and that it could one day not work for them as well. And he accused Republican dirty tricksters of hounding him and planting several of the stories.
“For God’s sake, just don’t believe that I don’t have feelings, that I don’t have pride, that I don’t want the dignity that the President has said.”
In an interview with CBS last month, President Obama said that he hoped Rangel could end his career with “dignity.”
The House had been called back to work by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass the aid bill for struggling states. They will likely not reconvene again until after Labor Day.
“I did the best that I could as an American, as a patriot, as somebody that loves this country. Thank you for your attention. Go home,” Rangel said at the end of his speech.
And with that, a handful of members on the floor gave their longtime colleague a standing ovation.
Video via MagHabe