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Rangel Adamant He's Staying in House Leadership Post

Charlie Rangel

Feb. 25, 2010: Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Way and Means Committee, addresses reporters after the ethics panel admonished him. (AP)AP

Embattled House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., denied media reports Tuesday night that he would step down as the head of the powerful tax-writing committee.

A defiant Rangel emerged Tuesday night from a half-hour meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When asked by reporters if he was still the chairman of the panel, Rangel gave an unequivocal “yes!”

When further queried if he would still be the chair of the committee on Wednesday, Rangel responded, “well, I’m 79-years-old. I can’t make promises at my age.”

A scrum of reporters continued pressing Rangel as he left the meeting and made his way toward a Capitol elevator.

“You bet your life on it,” Rangel said when asked again if he would remain the head of the panel. “And I don’t lie to the press.”

But Pelosi was noncommittal about Rangel’s future of the Ways and Means Committee.

“No comment,” Pelosi said as she slipped into another elevator at the conclusion of the conclave.

Rangel’s future atop his perch of the panel remains in doubt as House Republicans ready a formal resolution to strip the Harlem Democrat of his chairmanship as early as Wednesday.

The House Ethics Committee issued Rangel a formal "admonishment" last Thursday for accepting donations from a private corporation to pay for two trips to Caribbean. The ethics panel has not yet weighed in on a host of other probes it launched into the Congressman's conduct starting in 2008. Those ethics complaints include his failure to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic, his use of Congressional stationary to help raise money for City College of New York and his improper storage of a broken-down Mercedes-Benz in a House garage.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) Tuesday became the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to demand that Rangel resign as Ways and Means chairman.

"Representative Rangel has had a long and distinguished career and I respect his leadership. But I believe Congress needs to do more to restore the public trust," Davis said in a statement obtained by Fox. "An Ethics Committee admonishment is a serious event and Representative Rangel should do the right thing and step aside as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee."

Davis went on to say that he "will consider returning the $1,000 contribution he made to my 2008 re-election campaign."

Davis is the first and only CBC member to call for Rangel's ouster.

Davis is running for governor of Alabama and is not standing for re-election to the House this fall.

Although other CBC members disagreed with Davis about Rangel's future, several defended his position.

"Our caucus is just like any other caucus," said CBC member Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). "We don't have 42 members in lockstep."

Fellow CBC member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) agreed.

"I think everyone is entitled to his opinion," Cummings said, who noted that "it's a little early" to relieve Rangel of his chairmanship.

But not all CBC lawmakers were supportive of Davis, even if they disagreed with his call for Rangel to step down.

"I think Mr. Davis ought to step aside," sneered CBC member Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). "He ain't here much. And if he's speaking for anyone black, he ain't speaking for me."

Davis was not present for any of the three roll call votes the House cast Tuesday evening.

If Republicans do press their resolution to take away Rangel’s gavel, the Democratic leadership could delay a debate and a vote on that for at least 48 hours. A senior House Democratic source indicated to FOX that it was likely Democrats would try to delay the vote for two days.

Republicans have tried several similar efforts to relieve Rangel of his chairmanship over the past two years. Each time, the majority Democrats have moved to table, or set aside the GOP resolution. That means the actual vote has not been on whether to take away Rangel’s gavel, but on whether or not to consider the Republican resolution.

As has been the case when similar measures have come to the House floor, most Republicans are expected to vote in favor of the resolution, with most Democrats voting against it. But things are different this time around for Rangel. A handful of Democrats have publicly called for Rangel to give up his gavel on the Ways and Means panel.

“If this was only them (the Republicans), he would be fine,” said a senior Democratic aide who asked not to be identified. “This is the other shoe.”

With unrest about Rangel among rank-and-file Democrats, its unclear if the Democratic leadership team will allow the actual Rangel resolution to be voted on. A senior Democratic source signaled that the House would delay any action on the GOP resolution until later in the week.

“This train is coming down the tracks,” said a senior Republican House aide.

Reps. Paul Hodes (D-NH), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Bobby Bright (D-AL), Gene Taylor (D-MS), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Dan Boren (D-OK), Betty Sutton (D-OH) and Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) have called on Rangel to give up his post.

Reporters Tuesday asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) if he thought Rangel could survive a vote of no confidence.

“I think he could,” Hoyer said.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) also indicated that he thought Rangel could survive.

“My feeling in my gut is that Mr. Rangel still has the support of the members,” Meeks said.

Rangel first came to Congress in 1971. He defeated the late-Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-NY), a prominent black lawmaker who also suffered from ethics woes.