There is a political comedy playing itself out right now on Capital Hill -- and it's not a very funny one for Democrats or the American people. Last Thursday the House Ethics Committee announced they have drawn up charges of some kind of violations of House ethics against Rep Charles Rangel (D-New York). The exact nature of the charges are to be revealed in the coming week.
This is not the first time Rangel has been accused of ethical violations. Last March Rangel gave up his chairmanship of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee after he was admonished by the Ethics Committee for accepting corporate gifts in violation of House rules (Trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008). Now there are new charges pending.
House aides say negotiations are ongoing to head off the coming House trial on the new charges. Some Democrats want Rangel to admit his guilt and accept some kind of an admonishment. They think the trial on ethics charges will look bad for the Democratic Party with an election coming up. Rangel is resisting the negotiation efforts and says he wants to defend himself in the upcoming House trial.
I personally hope Rangel gets what he wants -- a fair trial. Because the negotiations are turning out to be a poor substitute for justice. If Rangel is guilty of the new charges, and I believe he probably is, then an admonishment is not enough of a punishment. He should be expelled from the House of Representatives.
If the Democrats didn't want a trial right before the election then they should have expelled him from the House back in March when the first case was decided (and they already knew other charges were pending before the Ethics Committee). They had their chance to take care of the matter and chose not to do that.
One of the main themes of the Democratic campaign back in 2008 was to clean up the corruption on Capital Hill. But to do that right they must punish the corruption no matter what party the offender is in. A Democrat should be punished just like a Republican would be because a corrupt Democrat is just as bad as a corrupt Republican.
By negotiating a deal which would allow Rangel to remain in the House of Representatives, the Democrats are giving the perception that they are trying to cover up or excuse the wrongdoing of a member of their party. Frankly, a trial happening right before the election doesn't make them look nearly as bad as these negotiations do.
The American people are fed up with corruption in the Congress. The Democrats (and Republicans) need to deal harshly with those found to be in violation of House ethics rules -- without regard to what party they are in.