The chattering classes are in a tizzy following reports that Charlie Rangel, one of the most powerful Democrats in the House, failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and income on his tax forms. Rangel, perhaps ironically, is chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. The New York Post came out swinging calling on Nancy Pelosi to strip Rangel of his chairmanship. Meanwhile, Democratic aides told The Hill that's not about to happen. The events have raised questions about Rangel's legitimacy and how the Democratic leadership should respond.
Why He Should Go
- A Turbo Tax Cheat, says the Washington Examiner's Byron York. He lists a long string of tax offenses including failing to report a credit account worth up to $500,000, investment accounts worth a similar amount and three properties in New Jersey. He also failed to report assets worth more than $1 million dating back to at least 2001. "Democrats undoubtedly see it as a joke. But the Rangel case is very, very serious," York says. He compares Rangel's problems with Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was convicted for failing to disclose $250,000. "This is the kind of thing you go to jail for," York writes.
- A Serial Hypocrite, says the Post. Just as Rangel comes under fire for tax indiscretions, his committee is trying to prohibit the IRS from forgiving tax payers who erred in good faith. "[Rangel's] transgressions should preclude [him] from even voting on tax legislation, let alone writing any," writes the Post. The Buffalo News isn't amused either: "This would be cause for uproar over any elected official, but when that official heads Congress' finance—and tax—committee, it is intolerable."
Why He's Not Going Anywhere
- No One to Replace Him, says The Hill's Alexander Bolton. In this committee, it's slim pickings. The second-ranking Democrat, Pete Stark, has a mercurial temperament and just last week called centrist Democrats "brain-dead" for demanding changes to health care reform. And the third and forth-in-line are either half-hearted leaders or got reprimanded on ethics issues in the past.
- Hold the Phone, say Democratic aides to The Hill. The House ethics committee is currently investigating Rangel and any efforts to strip his chairmanship would undermine the investigation, the aides said. Besides, Pelosi will not unseat a chairman based on allegations made by the press.
- He's Right Where Pelosi Wants Him, snides Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit: "This makes him vulnerable, and thus easier to control."