Why Charlie Rangel Is Still Smiling

Charlie Rangel’s perch as the chairman of the mighty House Ways and Means Committee is in danger. Supposedly.

The 78-year-old Harlem Democrat, a fixture on Capitol Hill since 1971, has been the subject of a stream of revelations about potential financial and ethical improprieties, the sort of never-ending scandal that would pose a serious threat to his electability if he represented a marginally competitive district. But New York’s 15th District is tailor-made for an entrenched Democratic incumbent to stay in office as long as he wants, so Rangel need not fear the wrath of the voters.

The only real threat to a congressional lifer like Rangel is internal, from within the ranks of his fellow Democrats in the U.S. House. If they want to strip him of his powerful Ways and Means gavel, they can. And, technically, that is what they are now mulling, with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct – otherwise known as the Ethics Committee – set to report back on his supposed misdeeds just before the new Congress convenes in early January. But don’t hold your breath waiting for any drama.

Even if Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a majority of the Democratic caucus were inclined to remove Rangel from his post – and, as of now, it doesn’t seem that they are – numerous obstacles, including the obstinate chairman and his allies and some recent history within the Democratic caucus, would make it a trying experience for them.

Start with the ethics committee itself.

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