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Rangel Censured by House for Ethics Violations

This video frame grab image provided by House Television shows Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., speaking of the floor of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. (AP)AP2010

The House on Thursday formally censured Rep. Charlie Rangel for financial misconduct despite pleas from the New York Democratic lawmaker and some of his colleagues for a less punishing reprimand.

The House voted to censure Rangel 333-79.

Rangel, who became the 23rd House member to be censured, appeared at the front of the chamber while Speaker Nancy Pelosi read the resolution.

Rangel responded that he won't be judged by this Congress, "but I'm going to be judged by my life, my activities, my contributions to society and I just apologize for the awkward position that some of you are in."

"But at the end of the day -- as I started off saying -- compared to where I've been, I haven't had a bad day since," he said, drawing applause from the chamber. Rangel was referring to the day he was left for dead on a Korean battlefield nearly 60 years ago.

Censure is the most serious House punishment short of expulsion. His supporters asked instead for a reprimand, which would eliminate that humiliating appearance.

But the House voted against downgrading the punishment 146-267.

Earlier, Rangel offered an apology and a plea for leniency in the sunset of his career, agreeing that he broke congressional rule but that censure was unfair.

The dapper 80-year-old Rangel, wearing a blue suit, blue tie and a blue handkerchief, faced his colleagues and told them, "I have made serious mistakes" including filing misleading financial disclosure forms and failing to pay all his taxes. But he pleaded with the House to be "guided by fairness."

Several House Democrats -- and one Republican lawmaker stood on the House floor and said a reprimand was a more appropriate penalty.

New York Republican Rep. Peter King said there was no doubt that Rangel violated House rules, but there was no evidence of criminal intent.

Democrat Lynn Woolsey of California said Rangel's transgression did not rise to the level of a censure.

Two other House Democrats, Leonard Boswell of Iowa and John Tanner of Tennessee, also pressed for a reprimand.

The House ethics committee painted Rangel as a congressman who ignored rules of conduct and became a tax scofflaw despite his knowledge of tax law from his long service on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel chaired that panel until last March, when he stepped down after the panel -- in a separate case -- found that he improperly allowed corporations to finance two trips to Caribbean conferences.

Rangel shortchanged the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income from his rental unit in a Dominican Republic resort. He filed misleading financial disclosure reports for a decade, leaving out hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets he owned.

He used congressional letterheads and staff to solicit donations for a monument to himself: a center named after him at City College of New York. The donors included businesses and their charitable foundations that had issues before Congress and, specifically, before the Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel also set up a campaign office in the Harlem building where he lives, despite a lease specifying the unit was for residential use only.

He has paid the Treasury $10,422 and New York state $4,501 to fulfill an ethics committee recommendation. The amounts were to cover taxes he would have owed on his villa income had the statute of limitations not run out on his tax bills.

The last previous House censure was in 1983, when two members, Reps. Gerry E. Studds, D-Mass., and Daniel Crane, R-Ill., were disciplined for having sex with teenage pages. Nine House members have been reprimanded, the latest last year when Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. was punished for a breach of decorum.

Wilson had yelled "You lie" at President Obama during a nationally televised speech to Congress.

The objective for the House is to make the punishment fit the ethics violation. In past cases, a censure usually was reserved for congressmen who enriched themselves personally.

Rangel was not charged with lining his pockets. But the ethics committee found that his violations went on for so long that the pattern of misconduct deserved a censure.

Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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