What is the fate of embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)? If the full House of Representatives agrees that the 20-term congressman is guilty of ethics violations, he could be reprimanded, censured, or expelled.
If history is any indication, being a Democrat facing ethics charges does not bode well for Rangel. All five members expelled by the U.S. House of Representatives have been Democrats. Going back to the 19th century, three House side lawmakers were expelled for their support of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
More recently, two members expelled on Rangel's side of the legislative body were found guilty of financial violations. In 2002, James Traficant of Ohio was expelled after being convicted for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit bribery, tax evasion, and racketeering. Then in 1980, Michael Myers of Pennsylvania was expelled following the FBI's Abscam sting, in which members were convicted for accepting money from a fictional Arab sheikh in exchange for political favors.
A number of House-side politicos have resigned before expulsion. Most recently Jack Abramoff-connected Representative Bob Ney of Ohio in stepped-down in 2006, and, in 1981, Raymond F. Lederer of resigned citing "personal legal problems" after the ethics committee recommended his expulsion on charges of accepting a $50,000 bribe related to the 1980 Abscam sting.
At least one resignation stems from a bout of physical violence in the chamber. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina resigned after surviving an expulsion vote for brutally beating Republican Charles Sumner with a cane on the House floor. He was later reelected.
Political prognosticators widely consider expulsion to be an unlikely punishment for Charlie Rangel. Expulsion requires two-thirds of the full House of Representatives to concur. But censure, a milder punishment that requires the accused to stand in the well of the House chamber to receive a verbal rebuke, can be exacted following a majority vote on a resolution disapproving of a member's conduct. Twenty-two members and former members of the House have been censured, but previous moves to censure Rangel have been tabled.
The most recent House member to be censured was the late Massachusetts Congressman Gerry Studds. He was punished after it was revealed that he had a relationship a decade earlier with a then 17-year old House page.
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) has told FOX that investigators recommended reprimand, a less severe form of censure, to the investigative subcommittee before Rangel's charges were read at a public hearing in July. That penalty has been issued to less than a dozen lawmakers in the House.
Notable recipients have been Rangel's Democratic colleague Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who in 1990 was slapped on the wrist for using his leverage to fix parking tickets and to influence a friend's probation officers. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was reprimanded in 1997 for allowing a member- affiliated tax exempt organization to be used for political reasons, and for misleading an investigative subcommittee.
The full House Ethics Committee will meet to consider Rangel's punishment Thursday.
Newt Gingrich is a Fox News contributor.