“Will the gentleman from New York, Mr. Rangel, kindly appear in the well?” asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi from her perch atop the House floor.
Rangel ambled down and listened silenty as Pelosi read the censure resolution, which–despite Rangel’s entreaties–had just passed the House by a vote of 333 to 79.
Before the vote, Rangel had made a brief plea in his own defense, recounting the day he was injured in the Korean War and saying he was too blessed to complain about his circumstances, but that he hoped the House would see fit to spare him this censure.
Rangel was quick and contrite–in keeping with the advice of his supporters–who hoped he would avoid the kind of rambling speech he gave on the House floor back in August.
He left most of the defense to his allies, beginning with Congressman Bobby Scott, who had previously penned a 65-page dissent of the Ethics Committee’s recommendation, echoing Rangel’s argument that there was no evidence of corruption or personal enrichment in any of the 11 counts against him.
The most stirring remarks came from across the aisle, when his longtime Republican colleague, Long Island Congressman Peter King, took to the microphone to argue on Rangel’s behalf. King said the two have long differed on nearly every policy issue, but cited his own Catholic faith and his training in the law to argue that censuring Rangel would break with both tradition and precedent.
“I have found no case where charges similar or analogous to those against Congressman Rangel resulted in censure–a penalty thus far reserved for such serious violations as supporting armed insurrection against the United States and the sexual abuse of minors,” King argued, as his voice occasionally cracked.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler also spoke on Rangel’s behalf, before Representative G.K. Butterfield offered an amendment that would have lowered the punishment to a reprimand. That amendment failed by a vote of 267 to 146, with only three Republicans voting in favor.
That vote was immediately followed by the censure vote, which passed by a vote of 333 to 79, forcing Rangel to accept his rebuke in the House well.
After the reading of the resolution, Rangel spoke one last time.
He suggested perhaps there was a “political tide” at play, and said that he understood this was a “breakthrough” and a “new criterion” to teach someone in the future a lesson–even if it was a departure from past precedent. He apologized to his supporters for putting them in this “awkward position.”
“I know in my heart that I’m not going to be judged by this Congress, but I’m going to be judged my life, my activities, my contributions to society,” he said. And he closed with the title of his own memoir, which harkens back to the day he was wounded in the Korean War.
“As I started off saying, compared to where I’ve been, I haven’t had a bad day since,” he said.
FOR A RECAP OF RANGEL’s LONG CAREER, CLICK HERE