Facing charges that he violated the rules of the House of Representatives, a defiant Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., gave lawmakers a piece of his mind on Tuesday, delivering a 37-minute speech on the floor of the House in which he defended his actions but also apologized for the ethical lapses pending against him.
The House, in an emergency mid-recess session, was conducting a series of votes related to a bill to provide $26.1 billion in aid to states when Rangel rose to deliver his defiant remarks.
Rangel's talk was emotional and rambling at times, but his point was clear: He is not resigning amid charges he failed to pay taxes and used his office and influence to solicit donations for a school named after him. The House ethics committee last month announced 13 charges against Rangel, including an allegation that he may have helped large corporations with tax laws while at the same time asking them for money for the school.
Rangel lashed out at Republicans, Democrats and President Obama, who recently said he hoped Rangel would end his career “with dignity.”
“If I can't get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot at getting rid of me through expulsion,” Rangel said in a challenge to fellow lawmakers in the chamber.
Rangel then apologized for what he characterized as mistakes, not corruption, that resulted in the ethics charges.
“You never get too big to recognize that these rules are for junior members as they are for senior members and you can't get so carried away by good intentions that you break the rules,” Rangel said, referring to his use of congressional staff and letterhead to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
Rangel told fellow lawmakers he is frustrated that Congress will leave for the summer without him being able to publicly defend himself against the charges.
“Don't leave me swinging in the wind until November,” Rangel said at the conclusion of his speech. “If this is an emergency to help our local and state governments out, what about me?”
Rangel later told The Washington Examiner he is glad he had his say on the House floor, even though members and his lawyers advised him not to do it.
“I can sleep now,” Rangel proclaimed.