Democrat Charles Rangel says he will not step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee even though the ethics committee found that he violated House rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.
Rangel said Friday that the ethics report "exonerates" him because it says there is no evidence that he knew the trips were sponsored by corporations. The report said his staff knew who paid for the trips.
Rangel of New York said he truly doesn't understand why the committee admonished him.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to speculate on Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel's future after the ethics committee found he violated House rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.
Pelosi noted that the powerful chairman of the tax-writing committee remains under investigation on other alleged ethics lapses.
"We'll just see what happens next," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters. She said she wanted to read the ethics committee's report.
"There's more to Mr. Rangel's situation and we look forward to hearing from Mr. Rangel on that," she said.
"There's obviously more to come," she added.
The House ethics committee accused Rangel on Thursday of violating House gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. The committee said it couldn't determine whether Rangel knew about the financing, but found that his staff did — and concluded Rangel was responsible for learning the truth.
Earlier Friday, Rep. Gene Taylor, a conservative Democrat from Mississippi, suggested that Rangel should give up his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, which originates not only tax laws but also benefit programs that now pay nearly half the costs for Americans' health care.
Taylor was the first Democratic lawmaker to call for Rangel to step down as chairman. Republicans have been calling for Democrats to replace him since investigations began last year.
Still looming is a much larger ethics investigation that focuses in part on Rangel's use of official stationery to raise money for a college center in his name, and on his belated financial disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unreported assets and income.
The ethics matter comes at a delicate time for Democrats who are trying to push ahead with their stalled health care legislation. The Ways and Means Committee will play a key role in what eventually may be enacted.
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