In a historic action against one of its own, the House today voted 333 to 79 to censure Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., on 11 charges of violating rules of the chamber -- a vote that was decisive but clearly wrenching for many of his colleagues.
Following the vote, Rangel walked down to the well of the House to receive his public rebuke, alone and looking somber, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., read a list of the violations.
When she concluded, Rangel responded, "I just want all of you to know that I know in all my heart that I will not be judged by this Congress, but by my life, my actions, and my contributions to society."
Before the vote, the 80-year-old Harlem lawmaker said in a six-minute address that he brought these events "upon myself."
Rangel also apologized to his colleagues "for putting you in this awkward position," recalled it was 60 years ago this week that he had been wounded in the service of his country in Korea, and said he "wants to continue to serve this Congress and this country."
But Rangel also continued to argue that a fairer punishment based on House precedent would have been a reprimand. And two colleagues sitting on his right and left -- Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., both took up that same argument on his behalf.
But in the end, that argument did not prevail, with the House rejecting an amendment to reduce the punishment to a reprimand.
Three Republicans who favored reprimand over censure were Rep. Peter King of New York, Don Young of Alaska, and Ron Paul of Texas.
Rangel left the floor after the vote to appear at a press conference. Earlier, at the start of the proceedings, he apologized to his colleagues "for putting you in this awkward position."
The censure recommendation rankled some Democrats, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina and New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, both of whom had said they wouldn’t vote for censure.
At their closed-door caucus meeting earlier today, some House Democrats expressed frustration at a lack of options and asked how individual members could introduce resolutions calling for a lesser sanction, sparking a discussion about procedure.
After Rangel walked out of the first day of his ethics hearing, he spent the weeks leading up to today’s vote lobbying his colleagues as well as campaign supporters, urging them to contact their members of Congress and vote against censure and for something less.
But after the Ethics Committee recommended censure by a vote of 9-1, significant support for a lesser punishment never materialized.
On November 16, an Ethics subcommittee found Rangel guilty of 11 violations, including charges that he inappropriately solicited donations for a private public service center named after himself at City College of New York, left omissions on his financial disclosure forms, initially mishandled taxes on a Caribbean villa, and allowed his campaign to use a rent-subsidized apartment.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a former federal investigator who was on the Committee's adjudicatory panel in the case, said that as sympathetic as he was to Rangel's position, "I feel more strongly that a public office is a public trust. And Mr. Rangel violated that trust."