At this point, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has publicly supported Rangel. After the two met Monday to discuss the situation, Pelosi said, "I see no reason why Mr. Rangel should step down." According to a spokesman for Pelosi, removing Rangel from his leadership position is "not off the table" but no such move will come until the House Ethics committee has completed its investigation.
Less than two months before Election Day, it's hard to ignore the potential political implications wrapped up in Rangel's financial woes. Republicans hold a minority in both the House and the Senate and face an uphill battle in November elections after dealing with a spate of congressional scandals involving big GOP names such as Tom DeLay and Ted Stevens.
Republicans could stand to benefit from a Democratic scandal that could help shift the nation's attention from those past debacles, or at least even the playing field a bit.
But it's unclear how large the Rangel scandal will loom in an election fraught with global issues with mammoth repercussions like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recent financial meltdown on Wall Street. But the buzzword du jour on the campaign trail is "reform," especially of the "Washington establishment," which Rangel is a part.
On Thursday, Gene Green, the acting House Ethics Committee chairman, announced that the committee will meet Wednesday to decide whether to move forward with the inquiry, which, congressional sources say, it is likely to do, because the investigation was triggered at Rangel's request.
Meanwhile, Rangel has hired an independent forensics accounting firm to go through his personal finances and look into any indiscretions. Lanny Davis, Rangel's attorney, said the results of that investigation will go directly to the House Ethics Committee. Rangel has also promised to turn over 20 years of tax returns and other financial records to the committee, which he will eventually make public.
In the letter released by his campaign today, Rangel defended himself. It read, in part: "My record in the Ways and Means Committee and 38 years in Congress is unassailable. … I've never violated the public trust, so I'm not worried."