Now Charlie Rangel really will give up committee chair

After having strongly denied report Tuesday night, New York Democrat announces move Wednesday morning

Published March 3, 2010 2:30PM (EST)

Tuesday night, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., strongly denied a report that he'd agreed to temporarily give up his position as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee after an ethics panel found that he'd broken House rules.

"And I never lie to the press," he told reporters at the time.

Wednesday morning, though, Rangel announced that he had in fact decided to relinquish his post. This time, Rangel told reporters that he'd asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "grant me a leave of absence" while the ethics committee continues his investigation.

It's not yet known who will be taking Rangel's place.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from Pelosi, who didn't seem all that pleased Tuesday night by Rangel's comments (she told The Hill he was still chairman, "I guess"): 

Chairman Charlie Rangel has informed me of his request for a leave of absence from his duties and responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. I will honor his request.

I commend Chairman Rangel for his decades of leadership on jobs, health care, and the most significant economic issues of the day.


What that means is that Rangel won't have any of the powers of the chairman on the committee, but if the Ethics Committee clears him at some point in the future, he could reclaim his post without losing his seniority. (If he simply stepped down, he'd go to the back of the line.) A Democratic source points out that Rep. Allen Mollohan, D-W.Va., took a leave of absence from a House Appropriations subcommittee a few years ago while under investigation, as did Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., last year. And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., took a leave of absence from his Appropriations Committee assignment when he joined House leadership -- again, just to retain seniority.

Of course, if Rangel is never cleared, or if Democrats lose the majority this year, he's unlikely to ever take the post back.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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