With Congressman Charlie Rangel set to plead his case before the full House this afternoon, we got to wondering whether there’s precedent for the full House breaking with the recommendations of the Ethics Committee.
In a cursory look at the cases that have come before the committee since 1967–when it became an official standing committee–it appears the House has only bucked the committee on a handful of occasions.
In 1978, California Representative Edward J. Roybal was recommended for censure by the Ethics Committee for his involvement in the Koreagate scandal. He accepted $1,000 from a group of South Korean officials who were angered by President Nixon’s decision to withdraw troops from their country. Roybal was charged with failing to report campaign contributions, converting campaign funds for personal use and making false statements to the Standards Committee (the latter of which was dismissed).
But the committee had recommended only a reprimand for two others implicated in the scandal, and after requests from some of his fellow members in the Hispanic caucus, the full House voted 219-170 to reject the censure, and reprimanded Roybal in a voice vote. (Rangel’s colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus have been among his few public defenders.)
In 1980, the House also mitigated the punishment of another Californian, Congressman Charles Wilson. The Ethics Committee had recommended he be censured and lose his chairmanship; the full House voted 261-148 to let him keep his chairmanship, and then promptly censured him in a voice vote. The amendment was probably small consolation to Wilson, who had lost his primary a week before.
A few years later, it went the other way.
In 1983, during the Sex and Drugs Investigation, the Ethics Committee recommended reprimands for Representatives Daniel Crane of Illinois and Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, for having sexual relationships with 17-year old pages. But the House, in a vote of 289-136, rejected the reprimands as too lenient, and voted to censure, 421-3.
The vast majority of the cases never make it the the full House, with members resigning or losing their seats before the House could take action.
Rangel’s censure resolution is set to come to the House floor around 3:30 p.m.