The Right Penalty for Rangel?

United States Capitol Building.
The United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Given the multiple violations which Rep. Charles Rangel has publicly admitted to committing, a simple reprimand is an insufficient penalty. At the same time, expulsion is not on the table, and appropriately so. There was no evidence of egregious self-enrichment or specific corruption.

Censure, which in the past has required the guilty member to stand in the well of the House while the resolution of censure is read, also seems inappropriate in this case. The optics of having an 80-year-old man with a long and distinguished record of public service standing for a public scolding lacks dignity and is unlikely to raise the esteem of the House in the public’s eye. 

That leaves a reprimand as the next step, but is it enough – commensurate with the pattern of violations that Rangel has committed? Probably not. He should also be docked in seniority and the Ethics Committee should make a recommendation to the Democratic Caucus to not allow him to be the ranking member on the House Ways & Means Committee or serve in that capacity on a subcommittee. There is precedent for these actions in the House and based on the record such a move is warranted.

The commentary above ran in Politico's Arena on November 16, 2010.