The Dean of New York City’s Congressional delegation, Charlie Rangel, announced this morning that he will be temporarily stepping down as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. The announcement came as the ethics committee continued to investigate Rangel for various violations such as traveling on the dime of corporate sponsors, and more seriously, failing to pay taxes on a vacation property. Rangel has maintained his innocence, and explains his leave of absence as an altruistic move “to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections.”
However, others have speculated that Rangel did not have the support of his colleagues to beat back a Republican challenge to his Chairmanship.
Michael McAuliff of The Daily News explains how this move could have a negative impact on New York:
Rangel losing the chairmanship is potentially a blow to New York, especially with health care reform negotiations ongoing in Congress. Rangel was one of the state and city’s most powerful advocates for boosting by billions federal aid for Medicaid. “He has tremendous legislative skills and an ability to put together effective coalitions that we need today, more than ever,” said Brooklyn Rep. Ed Towns, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Rangel’s resignation from the Ways and Means Chairmanship could also open the door for primary challengers to the seat he has held since 1971. Elizabeth Benjamin handicaps the odds on his potential replacement:
(Assemblyman and Manhattan County Democratic Chair Keith) Wright has been mentioned as one of a handful of Democrats potentially interested succeeding Rangel. I asked the assemblyman if he is indeed eyeing the seat, and he replied: “Of course. You’ve got to be brain dead not to be.”
Others interested in Rangel’s seat include the congressman’s former aide, Vince Morgan, who has already announced his candidacy and plans to primary Rangel in September; Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who has opened an exploratory committee to run for the seat from which Rangel ousted his father in 1970.