Democrats Join Republicans Calling for Rangel to Step Down

Republicans and at least three Democrats are calling on New York Rep. Charles Rangel to step down as Democratic chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee that writes the nation's tax laws.

Rangel is facing renewed pressure to relinquish his post after the House Ethics Committee today publicly admonished Rangel for accepting corporation-funded trips to the Caribbean in violation of House gift rules.

Video of Nancy Pelosi on This Week with Elizabeth Vargas.
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At least three Democrats -- Reps. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., Paul Hodes, D-N.H., and Bobby Bright, D-Ala. -- have publicly stated that Rangel should now either step down or step aside until remaining ethics charges are resolved.

"I honor and respect Charlie Rangel's lifetime of service as a soldier serving our country in Korea and as a public servant," said Hodes in a statement. "Regrettably, with the finding of ethics violations, Charlie Rangel should step down from his leadership position."

Republicans have long pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to force Rangel to relinquish his chairmanship for what House Minority Leader John Boehner's, R-Ohio, spokesman called a "staggering array" of ethics violations.

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Ken Spain with the National Republican Congressional Committee added to the criticism of Pelosi today, saying she "has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them."

For now, Pelosi is standing by Rangel, telling reporters earlier today that the Ethics Committee report was an indictment of the congressman's staffers not him.

"[The ethics panel] did not take action against him," Pelosi said. "They just said he did not unlawfully break the rules."

She acknowledged the ongoing investigation of other charges against Rangel and said that she will await those findings before making determinations on his chairmanship. "If this were the end of it, that would be one thing, but there's obviously more to come and we'll see what happens with that," Pelosi said.

VIDEO: Charles Rangels ethics
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The committee report showed Rangel staff members knew about the corporate funding and withheld the information from the Ethics Committee, which had approved the 2007 and 2008 trips on the false premise that they were financed by a nonprofit foundation.

Rangel will have to pay the U.S. Treasury the total cost of the trips.

Although the committee found no evidence that Rangel himself knew of the corporate funding, it said he is responsible for the actions of his staff, a notion Rangel disputes.

"Because they were my staff members who knew, one of whom has been discharged, [the committee has decided] that I should have known," Rangel told reporters Thursday night.

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"Common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing, or mistakes or errors of staff."

Rangel, who declined to take questions, said he would let people interpret for themselves what the ethics committee has concluded.

"I think right now I just have to let the general community make its own judgment based on what the ethics committee has said, and then I'll get back to you with a larger statement," he said.

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