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House Ethics Panel Recommends Censure for Rangel

The House ethics committee recommended censure for Representative Charlie Rangel, the former Ways & Means chairman who was found guilty of 11 ethics violations Thursday.

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Charlie Rangel
CNBC
Charlie Rangel

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"After much deliberation, the committee voted 9 to 1 to recommend that Mr. Rangel be censured by the House and to be required to pay restitution on any unpaid taxes," Ethics Committee Chairman Zoe Lofgren told NBC News.

During a hearing on Thursday, ethics chief counsel Blake Chisam recommended the New York democrate be censured, but did not specify a monetary fine.

Of the 11 guilty counts, the financial disclosure and tax violations Chisam said weighed heavily on his recommendation for censure.

A censure vote is a resolution disapproving a member's conduct. The lawmaker then is escorted to the front of the House chamber, known as the well, by the sergeant-at-arms. While standing before his colleagues, the speaker of the House then issues an oral rebuke.

Prior to the hearing, the Harlme democrat pleaded Thursday for "a drop of fairness and mercy" as he braced for likely punishment for his ethical misdeeds.

Rangel, who rarely sticks to a script, released prepared remarks for a House ethics committee hearing that will decide how he should be sanctioned.

"There can be no excuse for my acts of omission," Rangel said. "I've failed in carrying out my responsibilities. I made numerous mistakes. But corruption and personal enrichment are certainly not part of my mistakes."

If Chisam's recommendation is carried out, it would be the most serious punishment short of expulsion that could be meted out by the House. Chisam and Rangel argued their positions at a public hearing on sanctions, where the 80-year-old congressman acknowledged making mistakes in handling his finances and said he wasn't there to "retry this case."

A lesser reprimand also requires a House vote of disapproval, but without the member appearing in the well.

Rangel has asked the ethics committee and the public to take into account his four decades of service in the House, where he's tied for fourth in seniority.

Rangel spoke of his personal agony: "The sky fell down. The nightmare began. Soon after I took the gavel at Ways and Means I have been smeared with allegations of corruption and personal gain. Two years ago I referred these media allegations to the ethics committee, confident that I would be protected from these attacks and false accusations."

On Tuesday, Representative Rangel was convicted by a congressional panel of ethics violations, many dealing with personal finances.

The House ethics panel found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of breaking House rules, including failing to report rental income and improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress.

Rangel resigned in March as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee after being admonished for corporate-sponsored trips in violation of House gift rules.

While Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in the November 2 midterm elections, Rangel won a 21st two-year term in his New York City district with 80 percent of the vote.

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