Rangel co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus and made history when he became the first black chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January 2007, a position that made him – before the election of Barack Obama as President – the most powerful African-American politician in the country.
Rangel also has been a kingmaker. He was the one who paved the way for then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for U.S. Senate from New York in 2000.
But after two years of being dogged by allegations of ethics violations, Rangel was forced to give up his committee chairmanship. Over the summer a House panel accused Rangel of 13 counts of violating House rules.
The panel's report detailed what it called a "pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules and regulations of the United States and the House."
Rangel was accused of failing to reveal more than a half million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms; improperly obtaining four rent-controlled apartments in New York City; and failing to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at a yacht club in the Dominican Republic.
He also was accused of using the Ways and Means chairmanship to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.
Rangel has denied wrongdoing. A House trial on the charges could come later this month.
President Obama distanced himself from Rangel in July, when he seemed to suggest it was time for the veteran lawmaker to go.
"He is somebody who is at the end of his career, 80 years old. I'm sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens," Obama said in an interview with CBS.
Still, some Democrats stayed with Rangel. Former President Bill Clinton recorded robocalls to voters in Rangel's district.
"We need Charlie to go back to Washington, to work with President Obama to say, 'Yes,'" the former President said.