Nancy Pelosi has enough problems trying to keep her undisciplined caucus in line. She’s doesn’t need the additional headache of stripping Charlie Rangel, the long-serving Harlem Democrat, of his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee.
So Rangel ought to do the honorable thing and step down.
Given the continuing lapses in his personal finances, Rangel doesn’t have the credibility to serve as chair of Ways and Means, the committee charged with, among other things, setting tax policy. Over the last few years, Rangel has “forgotten” how much money he has —— several times —- and neglected to account for his wealth in required House financial disclosure forms. He has also failed to pay taxes on quite a bit of that income.
Just last week, he amended financial disclosure forms to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income he earned between 2002 and 2006. He forgot a Merrill Lynch account valued between $250,000 and $500,000. He neglected to mention tens of thousands in rent from a New York brownstone he once owned. His ownership of tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds also slipped his mind.
Even if he didn’t have major credibility problems, all that forgetfulness would raise significant questions about whether Rangel, 79, retains the mental acuity to run a committee that deals with such complex issues.
He’s already the subject of ethics investigations by two House subcommittees. One subcommittee is investigating his use of four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem for thousands of dollars per month below market value. Not only does that appear to violate House ethics rules, but it’s also an egregious misuse of real estate that supposed to help those who cannot afford to pay New York’s high market-rate rents.
Like several veteran Democrats, Rangel, who has served in the House since 1971, was looking forward to seeing Democrats regain control of the House, as they did in 2006, because his seniority finally gave him the chairmanship. It’s too bad his wretched accounting practices have rendered him unfit for the post.
Given the fact that Republicans are leading the attacks on him, it’s unlikely that he’ll see the need to step down. But just because your enemies are out to get you doesn’t mean they don’t have a point. If he doesn’t see that, one of his good friends ought to tap him on the shoulder and tell him it’s time for him to step aside. For the good of the agenda he supports. For the good of his district. For the good of the country.