House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., just announced that he will move to table a forthcoming GOP resolution that would strip Rep. Charles Rangel of his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Republicans want Rangel to give up the gavel of the powerful tax writing panel while the House ethics committee sorts out whether he violated any rules when he failed to disclose nearly a million dollars in taxes.
The ethics committee is also examining whether Rangel engaged in "pay for play" tactics involving donations to a school named after him.
Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to unseat Rangel in the past, but Wednesday's resolution forces Democrats to take a recorded vote on the matter.
But Hoyer said taking any action on Rangel prior to a decision by the ethics committee "would be premature."
The resolution will be offered by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, a former judge.
"We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful," Carter said.
Carter continued,"To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as Chairman of the very committee with IRS oversight, without paying a nickel in penalties, and with no end in sight to his ethics investigation, sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country."
"With this vote, those people can see exactly where their representative stands on the issue of equality under the law."
UPDATE - House Democrats shot down an effort by Republicans to strip Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., of his Ways and Means Committee Chairmanship. With a vote of 246-153, Democrats voted to kill a motion by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, to take away Rangel's gavel while the House ethics committee examines whether the New York Democrat violated the rules of the House for failing to pay nearly a million dollars in taxes. Two Democrats, Reps. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and Travis Childers, both of Mississippi, voted with the GOP while about 19 members voted "present" (including members of the House ethics committee, who declare themselves neutral on issues their panel is investigating).
House Minority Leader John Boehner, D-Ohio, said the vote to protect Rangel "is just the latest example of Speaker Nancy Pelosi breaking her promise to have the most open and ethical congress in history."
Democrats said they want to wait until the ethics committee makes a ruling on Rangel before any decisions are made, but insiders say Democrats are also seeking to avoid having to find someone new to run the committee. Second in seniority to Rangel on the panel is Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who Democrats fear is a bit of a loose cannon who has attracted negative media attention for saying some controversial things. At a town hall meeting last month, for instance, Stark got into a nasty exchange with an attendee who stood up to oppose government-run health care, according to the blow-by-blow on YouTube.
"Mr. Congressman, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining," argued the protester, who was elderly. "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg, it wouldn't be worth wasting the urine," Stark responded.