Ethics Committee Recommends Censure of Rangel as Full House Vote Awaits

WASHINGTON -- The House ethics committee voted to censure Rep. Charles Rangel in connection with a finding that he engaged in improper financial and fundraising conduct.

The committee voted 9-1 in favor of the punishment. The resolution will now be sent to the full House for a vote, which won't happen until at least the week after Thanksgiving.

The House does not have to accept the advice of the Ethics Committee. It could diminish or enhance the punishment or refuse to mete out any punishment at all.

The committee did not reveal the dissenter but it is believed to be Rep. GK Butterfield, D-N.C.

The committee voted for this punishment despite the New York Democrat's plea to his colleagues for "a drop of fairness and mercy."

If the committee's recommendation is carried out by the House, this would be the most serious punishment, short of expulsion, which is highly unlikely.

The censuring of a lawmaker does not carry any particular limitation on powers or privileges afforded to a member of Congress. There are no specific rules governing what happens to a member who has been censured.

In the past, however, the party conferences and caucuses have decided to discipline their own based on the decision to censure a member.

Rangel spoke calmly without notes as he faced the committee. He repeatedly denied he was corrupt or crooked, sparking a clash with Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

McCaul questioned whether Rangel's conduct was, in fact, corrupt.

He noted that Rangel targeted donors for a college center named after him, people who had legislative issues that Rangel could influence in the Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel, McCaul added, didn't pay taxes on his Dominican Republic villa for 17 years.

"Failure to pay taxes for 17 years. What is that?" McCaul asked. He noted that former Rep. James Traficant, who was expelled after a felony conviction, didn't pay taxes for just two years.

Rangel argued, "City College (of New York) came to me to use my name. I was not trying to criminally hide anything from the IRS and Congress."

He said he didn't know the landlord of his New York apartment building placed him on a special handling list, when Rangel set up a campaign office in a subsidized unit designated for residential use.

Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., told committee colleagues that Rangel need only "look in the mirror to know who to blame" for his predicament.

Rangel replied that he has never blamed staff or anyone else for his "irresponsible behavior."

"You have clips of what I said," Rangel said.

Only 22 House members have ever been censured. The last two were former Reps. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., and Daniel Crane, R-Mich., who were censured in 1983.

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