Pelosi Claims Rangel Didn’t Violate House Rules

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters today that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, did not violate House rules by accepting two trips to the Caribbean that were paid for by corporations.

But last night, the House Ethics Committee released an official report admonishing Rangel for taking the junkets and finding that he did, in fact, violate House rules.

“What I understand — and I haven’t seen the report … [is] that he did not violate the rules of the House and I think that’s an important statement,” Pelosi said.The ethics committee “said this press release shall stand as the admonishment of him,” she went on. “They did not take action against him. They just said he did not willfully break the rules.”

The ethics panel concluded that only Rangel’s staff, not the congressman himself, knew about the corporate funding of the events. But it found he was “responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties.”

The committee’s report said, in part, that Rangel “violated the House gift rule by accepting payment and reimbursement for travel to 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Some Democratic congressmen have called for Rangel to step down from his chairmanship, Politico reported this morning.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner today pointed out that the admonishment came the same day Rangel was a prominent player at the White House health care summit.

“I’d also be curious whether White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has any thoughts on Chairman Rangel, who sat about ten feet away from the President for more than seven hours yesterday at the Blair House health care summit, and shook his hand afterward,” said the spokesman, Michael Steel.

Additional reporting by Brian Beutler