House Term Limits Repealed, Rangel to Retain Committee Chairmanship
January 7, 2009 - 7:17 PMDespite allegations of corruption, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will likely hold onto his seat as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for years to come, thanks to the House's decision Tuesday to repeal term-limits on committee chairs.
Rangel, who heads the committee responsible for tax legislation, is under investigation by the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee – the chief ethics panel of the House.
Rangel, according to allegations reported by the New York Times, failed to report $75,000 in rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic on either his state or federal tax returns.
He also allegedly helped to preserve a tax loophole for an oil-drilling company whose chief executive pledged $1 million to an education center that will bear the congressman’s name.
In addition, he allegedly gave his potential support for tax legislation that would save A.I.G. millions of dollars a year after a $5 million pledge was made by the insurance company’s largest shareholder to the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.
The House ethics panel ended the 110th Congress without releasing its report on Rangel even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said she expected it to do so.
The term of the former Ethics panel chairman, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) ended when the 111th Congress convened on Jan. 6.
Green reportedly told a Capitol Hill publication, The Hill, that the status of the Rangel investigation was “up in the air right now” and would be up to the new committee chairman – an appointment that is up to Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the House Democratic caucus.
While Rangel’s ethics are being questioned, his position as head of the Ways and Means Committee is not. On Jan. 6, the newly constituted House voted to eliminate term limits for committee chairs for the 111th Congress.
House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Republicans are upset at the Democrat-led move.
“At this point, there’s no limit whatsoever on the amount of time Chairman Rangel can remain chairman, despite the ethical questions he faces and the requests by Republican leader Boehner and others that he step aside until these allegations are resolved,” Boehner’s press secretary, Michael Steel, told CNSNews.com.
Boehner (R-Ohio) championed term-limits even before the Republicans won the majority in 1994, Steel said. He sponsored an amendment that made them part of House rules and Republican conference rules.
Republicans will continue to abide by term limits, if they should regain majority status, but the Democratic rule-change is not subject to blockage by Republicans since it was made by the House Democratic caucus.
“Republicans don’t believe it’s a good idea to put the most entrenched members of the conference in positions of permanent power,” Steel said.
Limitless terms mean chairs will be chosen less often. New chairs wouldn’t need to be chosen until someone died or retired.
“The experience in the previous Democratic majority was that when chairmen got their positions they just stayed forever and built their own little fiefs,” Steel added. “Repealing term-limits makes the House of Representatives less dynamic and less responsive to the American people.”