Veteran New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel says White House connections trump "qualifications" in his re-election race.
The 83-year-old congressman, who has represented
his Harlem district since 1971, played up his ties to President Barack Obama as the most important thing that matters in the race at a campaign debate Thursday and again in an interview Friday, reports said.
At a Friday rally, Rangel boasted about being the president's go-to guy on Capitol Hill.
"It’s clear that now the legislative body, instead of just legislation, has to work out a strategy to support the president of the United States," Rangel told the New York Observer
before the rally began.
"It’s also clear that one of the people that the president lauds for doing the work, whether it’s the economic recovery bill, or the affordable health bill, it’s me. And so, I don’t think the question in the elections is -- I don’t really think -- is who is the best qualified," Rangel reportedly said. "As a matter of fact that’s not the issue."
Rangel bristled when asked to explain what factor beyond qualifications would be important.
"I don’t think I have to share with you, or anybody else, as to what the issues are," he said. "All I’m saying is that it’s not qualifications."
Rangel played up the value of his experience at the Thursday debate.
"This is not the time to change congresspeople in this United States government," Rangel declared during a Thursday debate with state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Pastor Mike Walrond, the New York Daily News reported.
Espaillat, whom Rangel beat
in a tough primary race in 2012, brushed aside the congressman’s boast during the debate.
"The congressman continues to tout his relationships with the president," the state senator said, the Daily News reported. "In fact, the president asked him to step down a few years ago," Espaillat said, referring to Obama’s comments as Rangel faced ethics charges in 2010 including failure to pay income taxes and misuse of his office to solicit fundraising donations. Rangel was ultimately censured and stripped
of his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
"I'm sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens,” Obama told CBS News
at the time.
Espaillat also sniped at Rangel’s assertion that he consults with Obama regularly, saying "immigration won't be solved at a dinner dance at the White House," the Daily News reported.
In his interview with the Observer, Rangel also took a shot at tea party activists, calling them "a small group of people who are holding the Republican Party hostage, and the country hostage."
He then declared "they all come from Confederate states."
"They all come from slave-holding states. They all were once Dixiecrats and now they’re all Republican," he told the Observer.
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